How Fit Do I Have To Be To Climb Kilimanjaro?

The number one concern for people wanting to climb Africa's highest peak addressed.


Dream of climbing Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak? We think it is one of the best things you can do in your lifetime!

Are you worried about your fitness levels or climbing experience?

So, first the good news...

Kilimanjaro is an achievable challenge for almost anyone! 

You certainly don't have to be an expert mountaineer to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. In fact, you won't need supplemental oxygen, crampons, or any ropes - 'Kili' isn't that sort of mountain.

Although you will need a decent level of basic fitness to reach the summit, Kilimanjaro is suitable for first time climbers as the climb is better described as a high altitude trek with very little to no technical climbing - just a basic scramble at the Branch Wall.

To date, we've had expedition members ranging from 16-64. They've had a variety of levels of experience in either hiking or endurance sports, but many have been first-time mountain summiters too!

What’s more, almost all of them have said climbing Kilimanjaro was the best, or one of the best, things they had done in their lifetime. 

We're confident that with the right preparation most people can complete the Kilimanjaro climb and stand on the summit of Africa’s highest peak, one of the world's Seven Summits.

But what does this mean in practice and how hard is the Kilimanjaro hike?

Kilimanjaro is a multi-day trek where participants hike for 6-7 hours a day over a variety of terrain and gradients. This culminates in the summit push where participants should expect to hike uphill for 8 hours from around midnight. The following descent takes approximately 3 hours. After a rest in tents and some lunch, we descend again for another 2.5 to 3 hours.

If this sounds hard then let us stress that climbing Kilimanjaro is NOT a race. Expedition members are encouraged to move slowly between camps with regular breaks scheduled by the guiding team. This helps manage the physical load of the trek and aids our bodies in acclimatisation to the ever-increasing altitude.

Let’s talk about the altitude! 

We only recommend undertaking a 7 day (or longer) ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro. Typically, when you hear of people who struggle with the altitude, it's because they were attempting a shorter 4, 5 or 6 day ascent which did not leave enough acclimatisation time.

Our 7 day ascent allows us to climb high and sleep low - an old mountaineering adage which helps the body compensate for the growing altitude. As a result, we have a great success rate for our expedition members reaching the famous summit sign at 5895m.

How do you know if you are fit enough to climb Kilimanjaro?

On your arrival in Tanzania you need to be comfortable hiking up to 10 km (that's just 6.2 miles) a day on consecutive days for multiple days. Unless you are already in great shape we suggest you start building your walking stamina for 8 - 12 weeks before departure.

Ideally, when you book your True Summits Adventure Kilimanjaro expedition you'll already be exercising regularly. This could be hitting the gym, enjoying long walks in the country, or playing a round of golf - anything which raises your heart rate.

Good signs that you are on the right track and are ready to book your Kilimanjaro trek are if:

  • you can complete a 15km + hike on undulating terrain
  • you can hike uphill for 5 - 6 hrs on consecutive days
  • you can walk or run 7km on a treadmill in one hour
  • you've completed a marathon in the last year in under 5hrs or a half marathon in under 2.5hrs
  • you regularly do Park Runs or 10km races
  • you are comfortable completing any of the UK Three Peaks (Ben Nevis, Scarfell Pike or Snowdon) at a reasonable pace. 

If you think you might struggle with the above, all is not lost. You'll simply need a little longer to get into the necessary shape. We'd suggest a 6 month training programme which gradually builds up your fitness.

Please speak to us about a more detailed training and preparation plan if you are in this position and want climb Kilimanjaro with us.

How to stay fit for Kilimanjaro

Once you've booked your bucket list adventure experience we suggest taking note of the following training tips:

  • the best training is training which doesn’t injure you! Don't change your exercise regime significantly, and only build it up slowly and as necessary. There's always more time than you think
  • the second best training is training you enjoy!  If you hate running, don't force yourself onto your local pavements or the gym's treadmill. Consider spinning or swimming instead
  • training can be time consuming, but there are some easy fitness hacks to reduce the time burden. If you drive or take public transport to work, consider walking at least part of the way instead, carrying a 5kg backpack. (Your main bag of up to 20kg will be carried by our porters.)
  • when you're limited for time, swap volume for intensity. Short HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) classes like those at Barry’s Bootcamp or HIIT and Run at KXU are ideal. Otherwise incline intervals on a treadmill, varying incline and speed, are the perfect way to train
  • consistency is king. Train regularly and within your limits. Try to have at least one long walk per week of 10km plus
  • don't be tempted to over do it. Your body needs time to recover. If you're ensure how much training to do, check out our suggested plan below.

Suggested 12 week Kilimanjaro training plan

We would suggest you follow the following training plan 12 weeks out from your arrival in Tanzania:

Weeks 1-4: Foundation Building

1. Mondays

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): 45 minutes (e.g. sprint intervals, circuit training, Barry's Bootcamp, or a spin class)

2. Wednesdays

 Strength training: full-body workout with focus on legs and core

3. Fridays

 Moderate-intensity cardio: 45 - 60 mins of brisk walking or cycling

4. Sundays

Long walk: 1.5 - 2 hours at a comfortable pace, gradually increasing distance within the same timeframe.

Weeks 5-8: Increasing Intensity

 1. Mondays

HIIT: 45 mins with increased intensity 

2. Wednesdays

Strength training: add plyometric exercises and increase resistance

3. Fridays

Incline training: 45 - 60 mins of uphill walking, incline treadmill, stair master or step ups

4. Sundays

Long walk: increase duration to 3 - 4 hours, maintaining a steady pace. 

Weeks 9-12: Specific Conditioning

1. Mondays

HIIT: 45 mins, incorporating inclines, uphill sprints or stair climbing

2. Wednesdays

Strength training: focus on endurance, incorporate step-ups and lunges

3. Fridays

Incline training: 60 mins of uphill walking, incline treadmill, stair master or step ups

4. Sundays

Extended long walk: 4 - 6 hours, ideally with some uphill sections.

You should consult a doctor before starting any training plan if you have concerns about undertaking any of the exercises mentioned here. 

If you would like to speak to one of our team about climbing Kilimanjaro or training for this incredible expedition, please give us a call on +44 020 4585 8888.