Body and brain are “activated”
Hiking is healthy for both body and mind. Beginners, however, should prepare well. These are the best tips.
Strolling through nature, enjoying the view and exercising at the same time: It is not without reason that hiking is one of the most popular endurance sports. Beginners, however, should take into account one or two pieces of advice before going up the mountain. Dr Martin Rinio, medical director of the Gundelfingen Joint Clinic, reveals what is important in an interview with the news agency spot on news.
Can anyone, regardless of age, go hiking?
Dr Martin Rinio: Hiking is one of the most gentle endurance sports and can therefore also be practiced in old age. However, people with heart or circulatory problems as well as those who are very overweight or have asthma should choose a slow walking pace (otherwise the latter risk developing asthma with exertion). Take any medicine with you and always consult your doctor beforehand.
Hiking should be avoided if you have significant joint problems or acute inflammation, but also if you have a cold or severe pain (eg in your back or knees). Osteoarthritis patients should avoid steep paths and forced marches.
Even with the onset of osteoarthritis of the knee, hiking is recommended – provided moderate and not too long distances. If the patellofemoral joint (behind the patella) is affected, walking downhill is particularly painful. In this case, it is therefore better to always choose flat trips with only a few meters in height and few descents (eg panoramic paths, etc.).
Why is hiking considered to be so healthy for body and mind?
Rinio: Hiking literally makes you mobile: about 70 percent of all muscles in the body are set in motion during a brisk walk or hike. But not only muscles, bones and joints benefit. The brain is also positively activated: Experts have calculated that even a short walk increases blood flow to certain areas of the brain by up to a third. The result is not long in coming: there is a significant increase in concentration and memory. In addition, the better blood circulation leads to a higher release of endorphins, which improves mood and happiness.
But that’s not all: Studies show that a lot of walking also reduces the risk of serious diseases such as Alzheimer’s, heart attack, diabetes, depression or stroke. After a short time, regular walks often lead to a marked decrease in body weight, blood pressure and body fat. In addition, running in nature increases physical performance – even in old age.
When it comes to fitness, then, do you need to prepare for hiking?
Rinio: Regular strength training is extremely helpful in preparation. This protects the joints during the hike. It is advisable to train your balance at the same time. A balance board at home is suitable for this, for example.
How important is the right equipment when hiking?
Rinio: The equipment must be perfect from head to toe. Suitable hiking equipment primarily includes ankle and skate shoes. The shoes must be robust, breathable and not too heavy. Make sure the shaft is above ankle level (this reduces the risk of sprain). The heel must be firmly in place. A sole with a lot of tread provides a secure grip on uneven terrain.
Breathable clothing is also recommended. Long-sleeved shirts, long trousers and wide-brimmed caps protect you from the intense sun at great heights (do not forget sunscreen with a high sun protection factor!). To be on the safe side, pack light rainwear, even when the weather is good.
An anatomically shaped backpack provides space for provisions (preferably whole grain products, water bottles, vegetables and fruit) and hiking equipment including rain and sun protection. When packing, think carefully about what you really need to take with you – and systematically store it all away. For the weight distribution, the backpack determines the center of gravity – and this should be as close as possible to the body. Good back padding and a padded waist belt pays off.
What are the most common mistakes when hiking?
Rinio: Many beginners just march on without much knowledge. Perfect preparation is everything and the end of relaxing trips without any unpleasant surprises. This begins with careful planning of the route using good maps and / or GPS.
Equipment is also often faulty. For example, it should be clear to everyone that one can not do without the right footwear.
Beginners in particular often overestimate themselves: Long trails of high difficulty are only for seasoned hikers. And also keep a moderate pace: Sweating a little is okay, but if you start breathing, it’s too much of a good thing. As a beginner, you should always warm up slowly for the first 30 or 40 minutes.
Dr. Martin Rinio is the Medical Director of the Gundelfingen Joint Clinic. A treatment focus for the specialist in orthopedics, surgery and trauma surgery is the hip joint and endoprostheses.