Running Uphill Vs. Flat: 5 Reasons to Love the Incline.

Last weekend, while staying at my aunt and uncle’s vacation house in Jackson, NH, I conquered “The Beast.”

My aunt and uncle live at the top of a long, winding mountain pass. The road is a few miles in length, but it climbs some 2,000 feet in elevation. To walk the beast is a challenge; to run the beast is nearly impossible. And yet on Sunday morning, that’s exactly what I did.

While the run was admittedly slow, I was successful in my effort. It wasn’t the length of the run that challenged me so much as the climb in elevation.

There are a few significant differences between uphill vs. flat running. Uphill running:

  1. Requires more energy. For every 1% increase in incline, runners expend 4% more energy. With a steep incline (like that of a mountain pass), the increases in energy expenditure are massive. Of course, the runner may need to slow down to compensate.
  2. Works upper leg muscles and butt. When running uphill, the engagement of your leg muscles shifts upward; it’s a great variation for frequent runners.
  3. Increases speed. While runners may need to slow down when running uphill, the muscles being strengthened are the same muscles required for sprinting. This will translate to faster times on flatter surfaces. Many sprinters train on inclines for this very reason.
  4. Reduces boredom. While running can get monotonous, adding an incline is a great way to spice things up. Whether outside or on a treadmill indoors, inclines can help keep things interesting.
  5. Increases workout efficiency. Researchers at the University of Georgia found that uphill running activates 9 percent more muscle each stride compared with exercising at the same relative intensity on level ground. Inclines give you more bang for your workout buck.

Most runners avoid hills or inclines because they’re difficult. In actuality, this is exactly why we need to do more of them. To that end, don’t be afraid to press the “incline” button on your treadmill; take your cardio to the next level. Instead of running around the hills, run through them. Attack - and conquer them.

About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.


  1. christopher says:

    this is precisely why i use the incline on a treadmill-thank you so much for this blog entry-thanks-DW-you are much luved.

  2. Gustavo Joris says:

    That’s exactly what I have been doing, so that I can have a better cardio workout without spending more time on the treadmill. I use my time in a better way, running more intensely in a smaller amount of time.

    And I can feel the benefits when running on level ground, I am getting faster and running gets easier. I also love feeling the strain on my butt when I run uphills, as I imagine it getting hotter for my boys later on, LoL.

    As always, this article is very helpful and informative! What I also love about your website is that you keep your articles short, with essential information only. Because of that, when I discovered it, I was able to read a ton of your articles in a relatively short period and get a massive amount of information.

    Keep on the good work!

    Kisses from Brazil!

  3. Well, fuk you and Aunt and Uncle Wavey’s house on a hill. I often jog for an hour on a treadmill alternating between 5 and 6 miles/hr on a 0 to -3″ decline, and my ass is as firm as a ripe cantaloupe and twice as sweet.

  4. I have been walking 1.5 miles up a steep hill daily for several weeks … but no matter how fit I get walking, I can’t shift to running - I can manage 30 seconds, then a minute later another 30 seconds, then another minute later 20 seconds. Then I’m beat! Yet I can continue pretty brisk walking all the way to the top. Any tips on how long it might be before I’m fit enough to run all the way? Many thanks!
    Ginny in Australia

    • Hi Ginny,

      Though you posted a reply 3 years ago, I noticed that you haven’t got a reply yet. Just my 2 cents, you can add up 5 minutes of very slow run uphill/down hill gradually. Gradual increase of resistance is effective in any type of workout/ exercise. Let me know how it goes.

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