Hiking is a form of exercise accessible to a wide range of physical abilities, which makes it a great outdoor activity for all. The health benefits include improved blood pressure, sleep, and reduced stress and anxiety. However, being out in the elements without conditioning the body can lead to serious injuries and other health issues. Many trails are rough, uneven, and have elevation gain, so even the easiest courses require balance and strength to avoid injury. Hiking training that includes strength, cardio, and practice will help condition the body to allow the trip to be more enjoyable and safe.
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Two of the most common hiking injuries are rolling the ankle and ankle sprains. Individuals that are out of shape or haven’t been active for some time are recommended to start with basic movements and exercises to warm up the muscles and increase heart rate.
Carrying a heavy pack activates many muscles, including those of the arms and shoulders, and back. Hiking for an extended period with a backpack requires getting used to the weight and feel of it. Nothing conditions the body for a pack better than actually experiencing it.
For simple day hikes, here are some essentials to have on hand:
Start small and go slow until you feel comfortable in the surroundings. Start off with lightweight and short distances and gradually extend to heavier weights and longer distances. Remember to go at your own pace and don’t try to be an expert.
Chrusch, Adam, and Michelle Kavin. “Survey of Musculoskeletal Injuries, Prehike Conditioning, and On-Trail Injury Prevention Strategies Self-Reported by Long-Distance Hikers on the Appalachian Trail.” Wilderness & environmental medicine vol. 32,3 (2021): 322-331. doi:10.1016/j.wem.2021.04.004
Fleg, Jerome L. “Aerobic exercise in the elderly: a key to successful aging.” Discovery Medicine vol. 13,70 (2012): 223-8.
Gatterer, H et al. “Effect of weekly hiking on cardiovascular risk factors in the elderly.” Zeitschrift fur Gerontologie und Geriatrie vol. 48,2 (2015): 150-3. doi:10.1007/s00391-014-0622-0
Huber, Daniela, et al. “Sustainability of Hiking in Combination with Coaching in Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Quality of Life.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 19,7 3848. 24 Mar. 2022, doi:10.3390/ijerph19073848
Liew, Bernard, et al. “The Effect of Backpack Carriage on the Biomechanics of Walking: A Systematic Review and Preliminary Meta-Analysis.” Journal of applied biomechanics vol. 32,6 (2016): 614-629. doi:10.1123/jab.2015-0339
Li KW, Chu JC, Chen CC. Strength decrease, perceived physical exertion, and endurance time for backpacking tasks. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(7):1296. doi:10.3390/ijerph16071296
Li, Simon S W, et al. “Effects of a backpack and double pack loads on postural stability.” Ergonomics vol. 62,4 (2019): 537-547. doi:10.1080/00140139.2018.1552764
Mitten, Denise, et al. “Hiking: A Low-Cost, Accessible Intervention to Promote Health Benefits.” American Journal of lifestyle medicine vol. 12,4 302-310. 9 Jul. 2016, doi:10.1177/1559827616658229
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