I am currently jogging every day. I am not in very good shape (hopefully this will change), so I am not jogging a very long route. I am making a loop about 3km long, starting home and ending up back home.

I actually have two choices of loops that I could do, both about the same distance. The main difference is that one is mostly flat Streets, while the other has many slopes. Since I end up exactly where I started, there has to be an equal amount of upward sloping as the amount of downward sloping.

Of course, running 1km on an upward slope is significantly harder than running it on flat ground. On the other hand, running it on a downward slope is usually easier, sometimes so easy that I have to spend efforts on slowing down in order to avoid going down the slope too fast.

I'm pretty sure those two routes won't be equivalent, from a physical effort perspective. This sounds like one of them could be better for cardio, while the other better for muscles, or something like that.

So what are the advantages and downsides of both routes? Is one objectively better (from a fitness perspective) than the other, or does this depend on my goals?

Additional information: I do not have any clear goal. I just started this routine because I'm getting fat, and I'm totally out of shape. I'm not really sure if I want to improve, cardio, muscles, or just lose weight. I just felt like it was time I started doing something, and going for a jog every day is an easy habit to pick up, and I figured it would definitely be good, even if I'm not sure exactly which of those "goods effects" it will have, and how much.

2 Answers 2


Running up hill is almost always better for cardio and fat loss as one would expect. Not so much for muscle gaining, though it would contribute more to legs than running on a flat road.

Running downhill on the other hand is almost worse in every way because as you stated, it's easier.

Given the same amount of effort, running on the flat loop vs the hilly loop will yield roughly the same results. You'd run slightly slower on the uphill parts and slightly faster on the downhill.

You don't mention how steep the hill is, but you mentioned that you actively try to slow down so I'm going to assume it's fairly steep. One big downside to steep downhill running is the impact it has on your legs and feet. Because you're fighting gravity, you're actively trying to slow yourself down. In order to do that, you have to basically lean backwards which causes you to run at a very weird angle. Your feet will strike hard at the heels, and the impact travels up the entire leg. All of which can cause ankle, knee, and hip problems eventually.

A more advanced way to run downhill is to actually use gravity to your advantage and run faster so that you maintain the proper form down the hill. The steeper and longer the hill, the harder it is to do without tripping as you will be going much, much faster than you're used to.

Although for a beginner, I would suggest a simpler approach. Run up the hill version and then walk back down it. You would be pushing yourself harder on the uphill movements and then using the downhill as a rest period. Some routes with many crests and valleys can be used as a form of interval training where you sprint on the uphill and then walk on the downhill parts.

You can use the flat loop as well in which you run consistently around at a more moderate pace.


I think both have their merits.

It sounds like the flat route is more like steady state cardio. While the sloped route is like an interval training.

You can also increase the difference in intensity between uphill/downhill by increasing your speed uphill and using downhill as active recovery.

Take the flat route the next day to not burn yourself out.

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