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Fitness and training to climb Kilimanjaro

One question we get asked a lot is 'how fit do I need to be to climb Kilimanjaro? Whilst a high level of fitness will make the climb a lot easier it by no means requires super human fitness. We often take people who have left their fifties well behind them and are not in peak physical condition. In fact, if you are carrying a few extra pounds this is a great way to lose weight! That being said, a solid Kilimanjaro training plan will allow you to better prepare for the climb and give you more opportunity to enjoy yourself when you're on the mountain.

What all successful climbers share though is a real Kandoo attitude and that means high levels of grit and determination. Summiting Kilimanjaro is a long slow grind but provided you have the determination to do just one more step even when you are tired we can help you get to the top.

If you are comfortable walking for 6-7 hours with an ascent of 1000m then you are certainly fit enough to succeed on Kilimanjaro. Similarly if you can do a full hour spinning, a vigorous aerobics class or can jog at a decent pace for 45 minutes then there is no reason why you can't summit Kilimanjaro.

The bare facts about the climb are that you will probably be walking 6-7 hours per day with a rough ascent each day of 1000m.

Practice Hiking

The best training by far to climb Kilimanjaro is to get your walking boots on and get lots of miles under your belt. Whether this is two to three hours walking locally or full days away on your nearest hills, you just need to clock up lots of hours on your feet as more than anything else it is just walking every day for 7 days that people find tiring. And the best cure for this is to have spent lots of hours just walking.

Hiking practice allows you to understand the stress your joints will be put under and how well you can deal with this. It also allows you to wear in your boots as this takes some time and can often be uncomfortable. Start with a comfortable distance that suits you and slowly try to work your way up to a 5-6 hour trek. If you can do this a few times then you'll be in good stead to climb Kilimanjaro.

Aerobic Training

Aerobic (or cardio) training will be a key factor in allowing you to climb Kilimanjaro. Aerobic literally means 'requiring free oxygen' and refers to the use of oxygen to adequately meet energy demands during exercise via aerobic metabolism.

Aerobic exercise builds up your cardiovascular system allowing you process limited oxygen in a more effective way. This is key for Kilimanjaro as it is a long distance exercise at altitude which will give the body less oxygen per breath.

Aerobic exercise, unlike anaerobic exercise, requires oxygen for elongated periods of time. Examples of aerobic exercise would be lane swimming, long distance jogging, walking and cycling.

One crucial thing we tell our customers is don't rush up the mountain! Trying to ascend too quickly is a huge mistake. Our porters can often be heard saying "Pole Pole", meaning 'Slow Slow' in Swahili. Because of the altitude your body needs time to adjust - no matter your fitness levels! However, having a good cardiovascular system will help with this, but it wont prevent it. Kilimanjaro is not a sprint, it's a marathon! We recommend putting the slowest hiker to the front of the group.

Depending on fitness, we recommend a 3-6 month Kilimanjaro training plan. Your hiking practice will help, but we also suggest running 6-12km three times a week. If you're using a treadmill remember to set a slight incline.

Strength Training

Any Kilimanjaro training plan should also include strength training. Although not as important as your aerobic training, strengthening your upper body, core and, in particular, your legs, will greatly increase your chances of success. You'll be on your legs at least 7 hours a day, you therefore need them to be strong enough to take the punishment.

To strengthen your legs we recommend doing the following exercises:

  • Squats
  • Front and reverse leg curls
  • Lunges
  • Step aerobics

Remember when doing these exercises to keep watch of your technique. Exercises done with poor technique will more often than not harm you instead of help you.

Building upper body and core strength is also crucial as you'll not only be standing for hours, but you'll also be carrying gear.

We recommend the following exercises to strengthen your upper body and core:

  • Shoulder presses
  • Back and shoulder flyes
  • Sit-ups
  • Kettle-bell rows / swings

Remember to stretch after all exercise sessions! Increasing flexibility will allow your body to recover more quickly overnight after trekking all day. No one wants to trek for 7 hours after waking up with stiff joints aching all over!

The importance of stretching

Most sports injuries occur due to poor stretching. This is particularly true on mountains where repetitive movements over tough terrain put a lot of stress on joints and muscle. To loosen your muscles and increase suppleness we recommend adopting a regular stretching regime. Spend 10 minutes every morning stretching your main muscle groups.

So get that date with destiny booked, put on your boots and get out there walking!

Mental Stamina

Just as important as physical stamina is mental stamina and attitude. There always comes a point (most often during summit night) that you will want to quit and just head back down the mountain. Keeping a positive attitude and digging deep to push through is incredibly important and a valuable skill.

Training your mental stamina is no easy thing, but there are ways to accomplish it. You essentially need to construct an activity that pushes your body to what it thinks is its limit, then you need to push past that to reach your goal.

A great way to achieve this is long distance running such as half marathons and full marathons. A marathon will push you to your limit whilst having an achievable goal in sight - the finish line. If you can do this with a friend or training partner then all the better as you will both push each other to achieve more. Remember, it's that final push when your head is telling you to stop that will allow you to get into the state of mind required to scale Kilimanjaro.

Understand the climb and apply to your training - We highly recommend you to be training 4 – 5 times a week with heavy weight in your back pack and at the same time don't forget to do interval training. Remember, on your climb you will be moving up and down hills on steep and challenging terrain up to almost 6 hours in most of the days and 14 hours on the summit attempt. So, It is important to be ready so you can easily manage the distances and miles you are walking and getting  specific conditioning for the climb.

In conclusion - Kilimanjaro training plan

Climbing Kilimanjaro is an incredible experience and, with a Kilimanjaro training plan, can be achieved by most, regardless of age or physical condition. Once you have your cardiovascular system up and running then all you need is a positive attitude and a willingness to push yourself.

More important than this is allowing your body to acclimatize to the altitude. More often than not, climbers will not reach the summit due to altitude issues. We recommend reading this article as it provides detailed information in preparing for altitude acclimatization.

If you have any questions about the Kilimanjaro training plan then email us and we will respond as soon as possible.

Frequently asked questions

Kilimanjaro Training

Because the trek up Kilimanjaro is not a complicated or treacherous climb, but instead more of a hike, it is important to focus mainly on mental stamina and breathing. The high altitudes and quick decent can be a recipe for disaster when you haven’t properly trained for it and can cause you to have to turn back to base for help.

Kilimanjaro Training Plan

The physical training for Kilimanjaro should be a good mix of stair masters, uphill treadmill climbs and breathing exercises. You should alternate days using the stair master and the treadmill, but do these exercises with around six kilograms of weight on your back. Go for the machine settings that will provide hill simulations and don’t forget to practice your breathing as you go.

How to train for Kilimanjaro?

To train for Kilimanjaro, you should hone in on your aerobic strength. You’ll also want to improve your strength, practice walking and hiking, and train your mental stamina. 

How long should you train to climb Kilimanjaro?

There’s no set time to start training. It’s generally a good idea to start training at least two months before your departure date, though - the earlier the better. 

Can a beginner climb Kilimanjaro?

A beginner can climb Kilimanjaro if they are prepared to make the climb. Beginners should be sure to train adequately and take extra time to ensure that they are ready before attempting to conquer the mountain. 

Can smokers climb Kilimanjaro?

Smokers can climb the mountain. However, it’s important to remember that lung capacity can be hindered by smoking, so extra training might be necessary. Smoking and climbing Kilimanjaro does pose a small risk, but when managed properly, shouldn’t hinder the experience. 

How hard is Kilimanjaro Hike?

Kilimanjaro is quite difficult to hike. This is mainly due to its short climb time that doesn’t allow for the body to smoothly and easily adjust to the rising altitude.

Getting fit to train for trekking in Nepal

Treks in the Himalaya present a substantial physical challenge, and the more fit you are before you start, the more you will enjoy your trek.

However, the number one most important thing to cultivate is mental toughness. Most of the people who trek in the Himalaya aren’t professional athletes or mountain climbers. They are average people with an unusual degree of determination. You will be walking for five to seven hours each day, every day of your trek. The best way to prepare is to hike, trek or climb any mountains or hills near where you live, and get used to really putting the hours in. With the right attitude, nearly anyone can undertake a trek in the Himalaya.

Specifically, we recommend your exercise program focuses on these four key areas

Cardio training

Studies show that high intensity training is the best way to improve your cardiovascular fitness. It involves intense, very short ‘blasts’ of activity. We suggest bursts of 30 seconds of absolutely maximum effort followed by a short rest and recovery period. Just five cycles of this every other day will show real results fairly quickly. 

Building stamina

The best way to build your stamina is to run, cycle, or cross-train. Zumba, aerobics and spinning classes work well also. Work your way up to doing at least 30 minutes three times a week at a fast, energetic pace and you should be fine.

Leg Strength

You’ll be walking for 5-7 hours a day. On some routes there will be very long ascents on steep stepped paths. To prepare your legs for this you need to plan a routine of leg strengthening exercises such as squats and lunges.  You can do these at home, without any special equipment. Alternate this with your stamina routine, each three times a week for the best results.


Many of the most avoidable trekking injuries are due to lack of flexibility. We  recommend stretching properly before and after your workouts, as well as before and after hiking on the actual trek.

Frequently asked questions

How to train to climb everest?

A good way to train for Everest is to try climbing lower altitude mountains first. You can also work on improving and maintaining your aerobic health and strength and by practicing a balanced diet. 

How do you train for Himalayas trekking?

Trekking is best prepared for by working on cardio. It’s also ideal to train with the goal of improving your stamina. Any activities that get the heart pumping and blood flowing are ideal. 

How do you train for trekking?

Effective trekking training comes in the form of cardio and strength-based workouts. You can try running, swimming, lifting weights, and doing repetitive exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and leg squats. 

Why take training for trekking in Nepal?

Having moderate to high levels of strength and endurance will make your Nepal trekking adventure much easier. It can also help your body to move oxygen throughout the system and cope with the lowering levels of oxygen in the air. 

How do I increase my stamina for hiking?

You can improve hiking stamina by increasing the frequency in which you exercise, working on your breathing, weight training, and doing yoga/meditation that helps you to deal with stress.  Yoga, although seemingly unimportant, can be a great way to train the brain to deal with the stress that you might experience on the last leg of your hike. 

Fitness and Training for your trek to Machu Picchu

In order to tackle any Machu Picchu trek you need to be in good physical shape. You don’t need to be an olympic athlete but you should be able to walk 5-7 hours a day over relatively tough terrain for 3-4 days in a row. We recommend undertaking a basic training regime (see below) 3-6 months before departing.

If you are booked on our Classic Inca Trail then the biggest challenge you will find are the Inca stairs that undulate up and down throughout the trail. This puts a lot of strain on the joints and really works the leg muscles, so building up stamina in your legs is key.

As we say to all our Kandoo clients, the best training you can do to prepare for any type of trek is hiking in your own country. You need to get your walking boots on and spend a few hours every week walking in the hills or countryside. You should also aim to spend a couple of weekends in the months immediately before your Machu Picchu trek hiking for 3-5 hours a day to harden off the muscles and joints.

In addition to hiking we recommend you also undertake an aerobic gym routine for at least 3 months before departing for Peru.

A good fitness training programme should consist of 3-4 visits to the gym each week and focus on:

Required stamina

Great exercises to build the stamina of your cardiovascular system include cycling, running, cross-trainer, swimming or rowing. You want to get to a point where you can do at least 30 minutes strenuous cardiovascular activities without feeling like you are going to keel over. Spinning classes, cross-fit, aerobics or Zumba are also great workout activities.

Building strength

In terms of strength training you should focus on activities that work both your upper body and importantly your legs. There are loads of strength routines you could follow. We like exercise like Kettle Bell rows, shoulder presses and flyes for the upper body and lunges and squats for the legs.


Finally, you want to make sure that your muscles and joints are supple. We recommend doing 10 minutes of stretching every morning to increase flexibility and suppleness.

Frequently asked questions

Preparing for Machu Picchu

Make sure you’re fit enough to take the trek. After all, you’re going to be hiking for at least 10-15km daily for almost 6 days on your longer routes. So ensure you’re bringing your best fitness level (Choquequirao or Salkantay / Inca Trail Combo are very lengthy routes for example).

How to train for machu picchu? 

To train for Machu Picchu, you’ll want to focus on both your physical and mental strength. To prepare, consider walking, cycling, swimming, and other cardiovascular activities. Prepare your mind by working on breathing techniques and positive mantras, as well as by participating in something mentally challenging such as a half marathon. 

How to prepare for a hike physically?

Physically, you want to focus on maintaining good cardiovascular health. Focus on exercises that pump blood to the heart and help your lung capacity expand. Good exercises include running, swimming, cycling, and hiking. 

Is it hard to climb Machu Picchu?

The hike up the trail ranges from moderate to slightly difficult. The difficulty depends on which part of the trail you’re on and, of course, your preparedness. Your physical fitness can also have an impact. 

Do you have to be fit to climb Machu Picchu?

While you don’t have to be an all-star athlete to climb Machu Picchu, you should be in pretty good physical shape. You’ll need to be able to walk for long periods of time (5-7 hours) per day for 3 or 4 consecutive days.