The great American wilderness is world-renowned for its rejuvenating properties. Generations of Americans have taken to woodland trails for rest and relaxation.
Indeed, the numerous health benefits of hiking make even a small excursion worth considering. But if you suffer from orthopaedic injuries or other chronic illnesses, is hiking a safe form of exercise for you?
The team at Alabama Orthopaedic Surgeons encourages you to consider a trip outside this summer. Hiking can be as easy, as difficult, as short, or as long as you need. Consider these benefits and potential risks of hiking your way to health.
The Benefits of Hiking
Natural sounds, smells, and scenes have been shown to increase our overall mood. Being in nature reduces stress, improves our emotional state, and can even reduce blood pressure.
Other studies have shown a link between hiking and lower cholesterol levels. Compared to more stationary cardio exercises, walking over irregular surfaces engages our core muscles in a way that’s hard to replicate on gym equipment.
For those with preexisting orthopaedic injuries, it’s worth noting that hiking can also increase bone density, flexibility, and coordination. Hiking can also strengthen leg muscles and improve overall joint health.
With a variety of trails available just about everywhere, there’s a perfect path out there for you. But before you load up your backpack and head out, you’ll need to consider a few precautions.
How to Hike Safely
Most serious orthopaedic injuries occur as a result of sudden twisting and turning or their associated falls. Even mostly flat surfaces may prove bumpy in the wilderness. By packing a pair of hiking poles or other balance aids, you can traverse the uneven surfaces and uphill climbs with confidence.
Proper hydration is also critical to safeguarding your orthopaedic health. Make sure to pack an appropriate amount of water depending on your hike’s duration and level of difficulty.
Depending on your current orthopaedic health, you may also consider packing any pain or swelling medication recommended by your physician. Compression sleeves for your knees or ankles may also keep you moving without too much difficulty.
As matters of general hiking practice, you may want to hike with a partner in case of injury or unexpected fatigue.
Where to Hike in Alabama
Alabama is blessed with gorgeous natural trails. The Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail runs along Lake Martin and offers hikes as short as a single mile.
Falling Rock Falls near Montevallo accommodates day hikers on roundtrip trails as small as 1.8 miles. Hikers can easily reach the gorgeous 90-ft waterfall for a cooling, natural scene.
In or near Birmingham, the Vulcan Walking Trail, Ruffner Mountain, Red Mountain Park, and Moss Rock Preserve offer truly special short and long hiking opportunities. Talk about endless opportunities for outdoor activity!
Hike Your Way to Health
The physical and mental benefits of hiking make it a prime method for stretching your legs and improving your wellbeing this summer and beyond.
If you’ve experienced orthopaedic injury and need to check with a physician before taking to the trails, the specialists at Alabama Orthopaedic Surgeons can help you determine what level of difficulty might work best for you and what you can do to best address a current injury.