0800 840 1628 • Monday - Friday 9am - 6:30pm

Contact Us

How to get better at hill walking

Hill walking is a wonderful way to explore the outdoors, boost your fitness and challenge yourself. Whether you want to get out and about in the wonderful hills of Dorset, or travel further afield to the peaks of Snowdonia or the mountains of Scotland, hill walking can offer you amazing views, fresh air and a sense of achievement.

However, it can also be daunting for beginners or those who are not used to walking on uneven terrain. If you want to get better at hill walking, we’ve come up with some tips that can help you.

How to walk up a steep hill without getting breathless

Walking up a steep hill can be exhausting and make you feel out of breath, especially when you’re not used to it. To avoid this, you need to pace yourself and use the right technique. Here are some steps you can follow:

1.      Start with a gentle warm-up

Before you tackle a steep hill, walk for 10 to 15 minutes on flat or slightly inclined ground. This will help you loosen up your muscles and joints and prepare your heart and lungs for the uphill challenge.

2.      Choose a comfortable speed

Don’t try to walk too fast or too slow on a steep hill. Find a speed that allows you to breathe deeply and steadily, without panting or struggling to catch your breath.

3.      Lean slightly forward

When walking up a steep hill, lean slightly forward from your ankles, not your waist. This will help you keep your balance and reduce the strain on your lower back. Keep your head up and look ahead, not down at your feet.

4.      Shorten your stride

As the slope gets steeper, shorten your stride and take smaller steps. This will help you maintain your momentum and avoid overstretching your legs. Try to land on your midfoot or heel and roll through your foot to push off with your toes.

5.      Use your arms

Swing your arms in sync with your legs, but don’t overdo it. Keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees and move them back and forth, not across your body. This will help you propel yourself forward and balance your torso.

6.      Take breaks if needed

If you feel too tired or breathless, stop, take a drink of water and rest for a few minutes.

Is walking up a steep hill good exercise?

Hill walking is a great way to improve your health and wellbeing. By walking up a steep hill, you can boost heart and lung health, helping to lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease. Walking up an incline also works your lower body muscles and bones, making them stronger and denser. It also releases endorphins, the natural painkillers and mood enhancers of the body, helping to reduce stress and anxiety.

How many calories does hill walking burn?

The number of calories burned while hill walking depends on several factors, such as your weight, the speed you walk at, the steepness of the hill and the duration of your walk.

As a general rule, a person weighing 150 pounds burns about 10 more calories per mile (an increase of about 12%) for every 1% of uphill grade. This means that at a 10% grade, the same person would burn more than twice as many calories per mile as they would walking on flat ground.

What to wear for hill walking

To enjoy hill walking safely and comfortably, you need to wear appropriate clothing and footwear. Here are some tips on what to wear for hill walking:

  • Layers. The temperature can change quickly on hills, so it’s best to wear layers that you can add or remove as needed. Start with a base layer that wicks sweat away from your skin, such as a synthetic or wool shirt. Then add an insulating layer that keeps you warm, such as a fleece jacket or sweater. Finally, add an outer layer that protects you from wind and rain, like a waterproof jacket or coat.
  • Breathable fabrics. Avoid cotton or denim fabrics that absorb moisture and make you feel cold and wet. Instead, choose fabrics that are breathable and quick-drying, such as polyester or nylon.
  • Comfortable walking shoes or boots. Choose shoes that fit well, support your feet and ankles, and have good traction on slippery surfaces. You can wear hiking boots or shoes, depending on the terrain and weather conditions. Previously unworn shoes should be avoided for hill walking as they may cause blisters or injuries.
  • Hat and gloves. A hat can keep your head warm and protect you from sunburn or windburn. A pair of gloves can keep your hands warm and prevent frostbite or chilblains.
  • Wear sunglasses and sunscreen. Sunglasses can protect your eyes from glare or UV rays that can damage your vision or cause cataracts. Sunscreen can protect your skin from sunburn or skin cancer.

Hill walks in Dorset

Dorset is a wonderful sprawling county, offering a variety of scenic hill walks. From easy uphill strolls to more challenging inclines, there is something for everyone. Here are some of our favourite spots go hill walking in Dorset:

  • Golden Cap: This is the highest point on the south coast of England offering stunning views of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and the English Channel. Visit Golden Cap
  • Hambledon Hill: An ancient hill fort dating back to the Iron Age boasting panoramic views of the Blackmore Vale and the Wessex Ridgeway. Visit Hambledon Hill
  • Bulbarrow Hill: One of the highest hills in Dorset at 274 metres above sea level. It offers sweeping views of the Dorset countryside and landmarks such as Milton Abbey and Hardy’s Monument. Visit Bulbarrow Hill
  • Eggardon Hill: This is another ancient hill fort that dates back to the Iron Age. It offers spectacular views of the coast and inland hills such as Colmer’s Hill. Visit Eggardon Hill
  • Lewesdon Hill: The highest point in the whole of Dorset at 279 metres above sea level. It offers impressive views of Lyme Bay and Dartmoor National Park. Visit Lewesdon Hill.

Final thoughts

Here in Dorset, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to locations to enjoy hill walking. Whether you prefer the breath-taking countryside views from Hambledon Hill or the glorious coastal scenery of Golden Cap, there is something for every hill walker to enjoy. 

However, if a more flat, level surface is more your style, why not check out are article Flat walks in Dorset for inspiration?

Whatever your walking preference, if you are looking to get fit and active, the team at LiveWell Dorset is here to help! Our specialist Wellness advisors are on hand to provide tips, support and guidance to help you reach your health and fitness goals. We’ve helped thousands of people across Dorset live happier, healthier lives and we’d love to help you too. Register with us today to find out more.


"In January 2019, I was five stone heavier. Now, with the weight loss, parkrun and netball, my anxiety has improved tenfold."

View full story

How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

Your Favourites?

or register, to favourite activities that you want to try.


Is this the first time that you've used our services, or have you already registered with us? To allow us to best serve you, please confirm whether you're new to LiveWell Dorset, or if you've spoken to us before and may have an existing account.

Welcome back, it's good to hear from you again!

To speak to one of our dedicated team and get the help you require please request a call back. All call backs from this service are free of charge to both landlines and mobile.

Request a Call Back

Do you provide your consent to share your information with the LiveWell Dorset team – part of Public Health Dorset ?

When you register with LiveWell Dorset, we ask you some questions about you and your health (how much you smoke, how active you are, how much you drink and how much you weigh). We store that information and use it to shape our service offer to you – such as the advice we give or the extra services we connect you to. The only people who will see this information will be those involved in the delivery of the service and management of the data. If you would like to use extra services (such as slimming clubs and pharmacies) we have to share this information with them. For us to be able to put you in touch with these services, we must have your consent to share that information with the service (we’ll ask for that later, when if you sign up for extra services).

Before we can sign you up any further, we need to know:

  • You're happy for your personal information to be shared with LiveWell Dorset.
  • You understand what information may be shared and why, and that at times, our contact to you may be supported by technology partners, who have the same data protection standards and safeguards as we do
  • You acknowledge that you can withdraw your consent at any time by informing LiveWell Dorset.
  • You understand that if you do not give consent or withdraw consent then it could be difficult for us to connect you some of the services we offer.

If you require any more information to help you make your choice then please contact the LiveWell Dorset team on 0800 840 1628. All telephone conversations at LiveWell Dorset are recorded for quality and training purposes, and stored whilst you are registered as active within the service.

Yes I consent

Sorry we can't continue at the moment

Unfortunately we need your permission to store your personal information to help us to assess the best support we could provide or signpost you to. If at any stage you change your mind and are happy to provide your personal information please come back and visit us again.