28 Jul 2017
Top Benefits Of Hiking & Tips to Stay Safe
Hiking can be an exciting and rewarding way to escape from your daily routine while also improving your physical and mental health.
Find out about the top benefits of hiking and tips to ensure safety on the trails:
More for the core
Like brisk walking, hiking is a good way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, particularly if your route includes some hills, which will force your heart to work harder. Hiking on the slightly uneven surface of a trail also provides a natural way to engage the core muscles in your torso and to hone your balance skills. You usually don’t get that type of lateral motion from walking on a treadmill or riding a bike.
While studies can’t say why, It has been proven that hiking and physical activity in general increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – “good” cholesterol – in your blood. This will ultimately reduce your risk of heart disease.
Hiking will open up your arteries, which lowers blood pressure and in turn takes stress away from your heart. For patients in one clinical study, walking 30 minutes a day, three days a week significantly reduced their blood pressure levels.
Fresh air and sunshine has been proven to decrease tension and anxiety, regardless of the length or intensity of a hike.
Hiking requires a great deal of physical fitness and endurance. Depending on the location, it may also involve treacherous terrain with inclines, declines, uneven surfaces, and falling/sliding debris. As such, there are a number of overuse and traumatic injuries common to hiking activities.
Most traumatic injuries occur due to falling while hiking on uneven terrain. Heavy packs can throw off a hikers balance and be a contributor to falls. Overuse injuries most often occur when the body is pushed too hard, too fast and not given enough time to recoup before resuming activity.
Similarly to training for a marathon, you’ll want to make sure you’re up to the task of a particularly strenuous hike. Conditioning exercises will help improve your stability and prevent injuries. As well, you should start with shorter hikes and work your way up if you’re new to this form of exercise.
How to Prepare and Protect Yourself
Hikers often come home with blisters on their feet. Luckily, you can prevent these injuries with forethought. Start by making sure your shoes are the proper fit. To break in new hiking shoes, wear them first on short hikes before you go on a long, difficult journey. Wear good hiking socks. Some hikers prefer socks that whisk moisture away from the feet to prevent blisters. Holes in your socks or socks that fall into your shoes can cause blisters. Some hikers wear extra socks with their hiking shoes to prevent blisters, whereas others use moleskin to prevent the skin from rubbing away in certain spots. If you notice a blister forming, take care of it immediately.
Prevent Sore Hips and Knees
Sore hips and knees are common after hiking for long distances or hiking uphill. One of the best preventions for this is to use a hiking stick, which reduces pressure on your knees and hips. Wearing good hiking shoes will also help. Make sure you’re in good general health before hiking to avoid common injuries. Cardio training or yoga can help prevent sore hips and knees. Finally, make sure you stretch before hiking.
Use Caution to Prevent Cuts and Scrapes
If you’re using a knife at your campsite or during a break, pull it away from you. When walking, test all your steps if you’re unsure of your footing to prevent painful slips and falls. Many hikers wear lightweight gloves and clothes to protect the skin from scrapes from trees, rocks and bushes. If you get an injury while hiking, stop the bleeding by applying pressure and, if possible, apply an antiseptic cream to the cut. If the cut doesn’t stop bleeding or you suspect you need stitches, seek medical help immediately.
Come prepared with plenty of water while you walk. If you’re going to use the water you find, carry equipment to boil your water, pack iodine pills or bring a water filter. Avoid drinking water straight out of streams or rivers, as it may carry bacteria or other organisms that can make you sick.