Health Tips – How to Prepare for Hiking

While hiking is a low impact sport – an activity that doesn’t over stress the joints and body – it can provide a great cardiovascular work-out when you hike at the right speed and duration. Follow these tips and you will be ready to book your hike up Camelback Mountain very soon!

  • If you have a Heart Condition, Hypertension, Asthma, joint problems, or other health issues, please consult a Doctor before you start training.
  • Know your abilities; limits are easy to find! If you are leading a very sedentary life then start off gradually. Aim for half a mile in about 15 minutes the first day, building up to 3 miles per hour over the next 2 – 3 weeks. Hike daily , with a rest day every 3 or 4 days. Make sure you are conditioned before attempting a long hike.
  • Check your posture as you walk. This will help to strengthen your bones and muscles especially if you are carrying a backpack.
  • Take care of your muscles! Warm up gradually and build up muscle strength and endurance.  If you over-do things, there is an increased chance of injury. Training should be slow and steady. Listen to your body – there is a difference between pushing yourself to the limit, and over doing it!
  • Proper hydration is essential. A good guideline is to drink 2 glasses of fluid, every 2 hours before the hike begins. During your hike, try to drink 1/2 to 1 quart every hour. Water is fine, but if your hike is over an hour long consider bringing some diluted fruit juice or sports drinks. These will give you carbohydrates for energy and help replace lost minerals. Increase your fluid intake in warm or hot conditions.
  • Take a 10 minute break every hour. Eat some trail mix, dried fruit or salty snack. Eat before you get hungry, and drink before you get thirsty!
  • Watch your oxygen intake. If you are huffing and puffing along then you are probably not getting enough oxygen. Ideally you should be able to talk as you walk along. As your heart rate gets faster, your body becomes more efficient at pumping oxygen and blood around your body. This improves with regular training.
  • Help avoid injury by wearing the right clothes and boots. Strong hiking boots with good socks prevent blisters. Fingerless gloves can protect the hands against cuts and grazes. On a long hike, bring a change of socks and clothing that can be layered. If the weather is changeable then pack rain gear. Wear a hat and sunscreen.
  • Carry a small first aid kit containing antiseptic wipes, bandages, tweezers, and moleskin.
  • Be mentally prepared. If hiking alone, make sure someone knows your route and what time you aim to be back. Could you cope if you fall, twist an ankle, or meet some wildlife? Consider hiking with a friend.

Whether you are an experienced hiker planning a week long trek, or a beginner going on your first five mile hike, to optimize the experience you need to plan ahead!

Dr. Steven Lipsky

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