Do You Burn More Calories by Carrying A Heavy Backpack?

Do You Burn More Calories by Carrying A Heavy Backpack?

What exercise can be harder and more intense than simple walking, running, or hiking? How about Hiking carrying a heavy backpack?. Carrying a heavy backpack is a great way to improve endurance and strength while increasing your calorie burning during a normal hill walk or hike. The best thing about carrying a heavy backpack is that it is easy(ish) to do and requires no thought or training. A heavy backpack session is simple to prepare for and easy to structure without any guidance from a personal trainer, gym instructor or team members, and there is no need to purchase additional, or expensive equipment.

The practice of hiking carrying a heavy backpack started as an exercise for the military, it has trickled down to the common people over years. It has a relatively simple concept: just stuff your backpack with some heavy weight like books, rice sacks, water bottles, sandbags, or bricks. Carrying a heavy backpack does help in burning more calories by as much as 10-15%. Let’s find out more about this benefit.

More weight burns more calories

Hiking with a Heavy Backpack is Associated with the Following

More Calorie Burn: The food we eat has calories that give us the energy to keep going. We store and burn these calories, which work as fuel to stay active. The more you move and the faster you hike, the more calories you end up burning. However, if you carry extra weight while hiking, you will burn more calories from the same distance and speed.

Carrying a Heavy Backpack for Burning Calories

More Fat Burn: Calories give fats, proteins, and carbohydrates that provide energy to the body. It is due to fat that we are able to perform all types of activities in our everyday life. Depending on the intensity of the activity, the energy received from fat reserves is lower or higher. Simply put, you burn more fat with low-intensity exercises. For instance, covering a longer distance at a slow pace will burn more fat than covering a shorter distance at a fast speed. So, you can increase the work done by carrying a heavy backpack and burn more fat.

Building more Endurance: Hiking with a heavy backpack improves your breathing, which ultimately increases your capacity to hike for longer. Hiking with a significant amount of extra weight can also help in gaining more muscle and eventually improving fitness.

Benefits of Carrying a Heavy Backpack on a Hike

When you hike with a heavy backpack, you receive the following benefits and many more:

  • It is a solid form of strength training that offers a wide range of cardiovascular benefits
  • It increases your emergency expenditure and calorie burning
  • It boosts heart rate by up to 10 beats per minute
  • It increases your oxygen consumption by 10-15%

Tips to stay Safe While Carrying a Heavy Backpack

Although hiking with a heavy backpack provides lots of benefits, you need to keep certain safety tips in mind. Some of them are:

  • Consider how much weight you should carry on your back while hiking. Ideally, it should not be more than 25% of your total body weight.
  • Carrying your backpack appropriately is necessary while hiking. Avoid any loose-fitting, large backpacks that are free to move around. You should start with a compact backpack. Use a lightweight backpack to start out, then, when that becomes easier, you can gradually increase the weight and size of backpack.
  • The backpack must have a belt strap that you should snugly fit on your body. Otherwise, the entire weight will keep bouncing and slamming on your back with each step you take. As a result, you may end up with more damage and pain in your body rather than burning off your excess calories.
  • Secure the hip belt of your backpack, as it will transfer more weight to the large muscles of your legs, and keep the weight off your upper back and shoulders. Unless of course, you intend to have a workout of your upper back. You should always make sure you secure your bag’s hip belt while carrying heavy weights a a matter of safety.
  • How you pack your backpack is important. You can always modify things by carrying half your load on the front and half on the back. This will have the effect of reducing the postural adaption required for staying upright and also reducing stress on your spine. Here’s a handy article on packing your backpack from to help you.
Planning your first overnight hike - what to pack
  • You need to be careful where you place the weight while packing your bag. You don’t want the centre of gravity to bee off. Also, start by carrying a fairly light weight and then increase the weight in your backpack slowly. The process should be so slow that you must not even realize that you are carrying more weight today than yesterday. This will help your body get used to hiking without noticing the gradual extra burden that you are carrying.
  • Feeling uncomfortable as you push yourself for the exercise is normal. Expect slight discomfort as you work new muscles, build endurance, increase muscle mass, and strengthen lungs. However, if you begin to experience pain, and it becomes so unbearable that you can’t continue, you must stay cautious, ease off, reduce the weight until you find a suitable but heavy enough load.
  • Always be aware to maintain proper posture while hiking so that you do not end up straining your muscles instead of getting the desired benefits.

How You Can Refine Your Technique While Carrying a Heavy Backpack

Take Shorter Steps: When you carry a heavy backpack, your legs will need to deal with the extra pressure and weight with each step. So, taking shorter steps will diminish the amount of force you have to exert on your legs while hiking.

Keep Your Chin Up: While hiking, be mindful to keep your chin up and chest forward. This posture will give a good exercise to your core instead of giving all the pressure to your legs.

Engage and Squeeze the Glutes: When you engage your glutes, you also engage your core and be more conscious while taking steps to move forward. Every technique that you use while hiking with weight connects to establish your form and posture.

The Right Way to Pack Your Backpack

Do not throw items into your backpack aimlessly. Loose items will keep bouncing around, causing discomfort while carrying the backpack and negating any benefits you expect from the activity. Loose things will keep falling out or bouncing into your back. Therefore, any items that you carry in your backpack should be tightly packed.

Ensure that you do not over-pack your bag. Take a proper size Rucksack or Daysack that can carry the weight you intend to put into it. Also, ensure that you do not take any sharp objects in your backpack that may keep jabbing your neck, back, or rib cage as you move.

Be Aware of the Risks Involved

Like any other form of exercise, Carrying a Heavy Backpack also involves some degree of risk. It’s you who can decide whether these risks are acceptable for you or not:

  • Neck, shoulder, and back strain, which is more common if you use a loose-fitting backpack or if you go too far or too fast during your hike
  • Knee or ankle pain due to heavy weight putting excessive stress on your joints
  • Blisters due to loosely fitted shoes or socks
  • Heatstroke if you carry very heavy weight in hot weather and do not hydrate yourself
  • Hypothermia if you hike in the outdoors for too long without proper preparation and clothing

Most of these risks can be eliminated if you use well-fitted gear and common sense. However, you must not do a heavy workout if you have a medical condition or inflamed joints. Get in touch with your physician and confirm if carrying a heavy backpack is a suitable exercise for you or not.

Carrying a heavy backpack while walking, running, or hiking, is an enjoyable way to carry stuff around and burn more calories. However, be watchful of your posture and balance to avoid any pain and injury. For most people, it is an effective exercise with no extreme risks involved. Take my word for it, it’s a nice way to go out of the house and do some hard workouts while enjoying the sights and smells of the outdoors.