How Fit Do You Need to Be to Climb Kilimanjaro?

One of the main questions people ask is how fit they need to be to hike Kilimanjaro. This is a common concern because you want to make sure they don’t have issues on the mountain and that they can summit easily.

The good news is that you need to be in good physical shape to hike Kilimanjaro but there is no need to be super fit. Keep in mind Kilimanjaro is a slow uphill hike, not real mountain climbing. However, you still need to make sure you are exercising and hiking in preparation for the climb as well as prepare as best you can for altitude sickness.

How Fit Should I Be to climb Kilimanjaro?

To be able to climb Kilimanjaro, most people do not need to be incredibly fit, but a moderate level of fitness is necessary. This, combined with good acclimatization, is typically sufficient for the climb.

To prepare for the trek, it is recommended to engage in at least 2 to 3 months of training prior to arriving in Tanzania. If you are already in shape and comfortable with hiking, then that is even better.

While the more fit you are, the more enjoyable your climb will be, there is no need to hit the gym for hours at a time to prepare for Kilimanjaro. The main point of fitness when it comes to Kilimanjaro is endurance because you will be walking for long hours every day.

If you imagine what it’s like walking up and down hills for 6 or 7 hours a day, this is what it’s like to climb Kilimanjaro. This is one of the reasons why we encourage all climbers to walk outside and hike as part of their training as well as going to the gym for other exercises.

Part of walking for long hours every day is also mental preparedness. If you can push yourself to keep going even when you are tired and feel like giving up, this can help you reach the top of Kilimanjaro.

Does Route Matter for Fitness?

Since there are many different routes up to the summit of Kilimanjaro, some people wonder if some routes require more fitness than others. Many people mistakenly choose the shorter routes up the mountain because they think shorter means less hiking.

However, on the shorter routes, the altitude changes quicker and the days are longer. If you want the 6-day Marangu or the 6-day Machame, you will require more fitness compared to if you choose the 7-day Machame or the 8-day Lemosho.

By spreading the climb out to longer days, you can better adjust to the altitude and also hike for shorter hours.

If you’re worried about fitness and summiting, a route that is 7 days or longer will give you a higher success rate.

No matter what route you choose though, preparing and training is a big part of whether you will summit or not.

For new trekkers with lower fitness levels, the 8-day Lemosho and the 9-day Northern Circuit route are the top recommended choices.

Exercises to Help Prepare for the Climb

The way to prepare is to get outside and do some hiking and walking. Try to find the area of your town with the most hills and elevation and do some hiking there.

Going to the gym a few times a week is also very important to help you with endurance. Make sure to do a good mix of arm strengthening, leg strengthening, and core building. Many people also find that yoga and meditation also help them with being able to mentally focus and prepare.

Try doing a good mix of leg lunges, planks, push-ups, and leg lunges. You can also use any equipment available to you at your local gym to help gain muscle mass.

If your gym has fitness classes, try doing some of the cardio ones to help you build endurance and increase your heart rate.

The weather on Kilimanjaro can change quickly, so you might consider getting outdoors even when it’s raining or cold to help you more adequately prepare for the climb. Just make sure you have waterproof clothing and shoes to avoid getting too wet. The right clothes can make you’re exercising more comfortable and it will also ensure you don’t get sick.

Most people find that they are prepared after just a few months of exercising so there is no need to book your climb years in advance.

The Bottom Line

Kilimanjaro is a tough hike but it’s something the average person can do with some weekly training both at the gym and outdoors with hiking and walking. Remember to start training slowly and then work your way up to more strenuous activities.

Kilimanjaro is one of the most popular climbs in Africa and on the planet because so many people can successfully summit with simple preparations and training.