You Don’t Always Need to go Flat Out When You Head for the Hills

I’ve had a recent barrage of people who tell me they can’t get out and exercise where they live because they are in the hills…


I find some irony in the fact that many of these people can yet get out of bed at the crack of dawn, jump in their car on a freezing cold morning and drive down to the flat to use a machine inside a building and stare at a screen for 30 minutes whilst ‘paying their dues’ to their body! And some of these may or may not get upset if their carpark right outside the door is taken for the day!

Ok, so this may come off a bit harsh. Please hear me, I am not having a go at anybody. It’s just one of those little fitness industry trends that bemuses me at times. Designers and manufacturers of fitness equipment must be laughing at how they can produce and market gadgets and build their campaigns on the knowledge that society loves a ‘quick fix’.

Rant over! Here’s a case for those who live in the hills, or who are drawn to the thought of exercising in the hills but can’t quite muster the motivation.

The cost of time is the same in the hills as it is on the flat! A 30 minute session lasts for exactly the same amount of time regardless of the location…I know, earth-shattering information, right?!

Undulating surfaces are resistance training in disguise. Get up and down a few hills and you might just gain a strength response! At the very least, your metabolic response will outlast the duration of your 30 minute plod at a constant pace.

Hills are the cheapest personal trainer you will ever employ. They do your interval programming for you, free of charge, and it saves everybody time and effort in drawing up work-rest intervals to a lab-determined optimum.

To achieve the same cerebral response to hill training on an ergometer, you must break every OH & S code that exists in a given building! The stimulation that your cerebellum receives through surface variation, changing visual stimulus and the engagement of navigating your route might just make you more creative and productive for the day.

Your body is not confined to the limitations of your equipment. Most treadmills have the incline capacity of a modest 10% grade. In the hills, you could expect upward of 30. Laying aside the increased effort that this poses – which is the primary deterrent in most cases – our bodies are supposed to be mobile and adaptable to many varying degrees of movement planes and angles.

If you confine your movement to the capacity of a mechanical ergometer, you risk losing your capacity to negotiate the real world!

I have said this stuff in person to the people who have expressed disdain toward exercising in the hills, so this is not me being an internet tough guy! I thought it was worth encouraging a broader perspective on the benefits on offer through harder modes of exercise! Done well, and it won’t kill you; and if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger hey?!


Nathan Chesterfield is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist who has worked in private clinical practise for 11 years.