New Study: Hiking This Often Could Help Reduce Weight

Updated: May 30, 2024

Researchers identified a specific routine of nature-walking—and eating—that helped participants get critical metrics into a healthier zone.

If you have summer travel planned, remember vacation can be a fun opportunity to see the sites and scenery on foot. New research suggests a commitment to regular hiking could also lend itself to some weight loss and a healthier change in body shape.

In many parts of Europe, hiking is a beloved way to get out, move the body, and appreciate nature. Biology and exercise physiology researchers in Poland have published a May 2024 study in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients after examining the effects of Nordic walking, a full-body exercise technique that utilizes poles similar to those used in cross-country skiing, on a group of 52 overweight and obese women. All participants reported they routinely engaged in “no physical activity other than housework,” the researchers note, and they’d been diagnosed with diabetes. Study participants were between the ages of 21 and 85, with an average age of 55.

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After undergoing body composition, blood sample analyses, and some conditioning to prepare them for the regular activity, each woman followed one of the following protocols: One group tried the time-restricted eating and Nordic walking routine for six weeks, another group tried it for 12 weeks, and two control groups followed the time-restricted eating plans for the two respective periods of time, but undertook no walking routine.

The groups who’d trained in Nordic walking then embarked for 60-minute walking sessions three times each week. This included a 10- to 15-minute warm-up, 40 to 45 minutes of walking, and five to 15 minutes of stretching and breathing exercises to cool down. Participants also practiced fasting seven days a week for 14 hours each day, with a “feeding window” of 10 hours.

The six-week group saw an average weight loss of about three pounds. Their routine did not significantly impact body composition.

Among the 12-week group, the regimen led to what the researchers call a “significant weight reduction”—on average, about four pounds. That might not sounds like much, but the researchers note that their analysis showed a difference in body composition, which indicates a fitter change in the bodies’ shape even without major weight loss.

For both walking groups, the authors report regarding cholesterol values: “The LDL/HDL ratio changed with a small size effect.”

For the six-week non-walking group, weight came down an average of less than a pound, while for the 12-week fasting group, weight actually increased nearly two pounds on average.

The researchers say that based on these outcomes, it takes more time, and more permanent change, to yield the greatest improvements. Another important note is that none of the groups changed their actual diets. The study may suggest that fasting and exercise can be best complemented by shifting to a leaner, more nutritious diet.