Body and brain are “activated”
Hiking is healthy for both the body and the mind. However, beginners should prepare well. Those are the best tips.
Walking in nature, enjoying the view and exercising at the same time: not for nothing is hiking one of the most popular endurance sports. However, beginners should pay attention to one or two tips before climbing 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 of any age go hiking?
dr Martin Rinio: Hiking is one of the gentlest endurance sports and can therefore also be practiced at an advanced age. However, people with heart or circulatory problems, as well as those who are very overweight or have asthma, should opt for a slow pace (otherwise the latter are at risk of developing exertional asthma). If necessary, take your medication with you and always consult your doctor first.
Hiking should be avoided if you have significant joint problems or acute inflammation, but also if you have a cold or severe pain (for example, 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, assuming moderate and not too long distances. If the patellofemoral joint (behind the kneecap) is affected, walking downhill is particularly painful. In this case, therefore, it is always better to choose flat routes with only a few meters of altitude and few descents (eg panoramic trails, etc.).
Why is hiking considered so healthy for the body and mind?
Rinio: Walking literally makes you mobile: About 70 percent of all the muscles in the body are put into motion during a brisk walk or walk. But not only muscles, bones and joints benefit. The brain is also activated positively: experts have calculated that even a short walk increases blood flow to certain brain regions by up to a third. The result is immediate: there is a significant increase in concentration and memory. Also, better blood circulation leads to a greater release of endorphins, which improves mood and happiness.
But that’s not all: studies show that walking a lot also reduces the risk of serious diseases such as Alzheimer’s, heart attack, diabetes, depression or stroke. After a short period of time, regular walks often lead to significant decreases 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, should you gear up for hiking?
Rinio: Regular strength training is extremely helpful in preparation. This protects the joints during the walk. It is advisable to train balance at the same time. A balance board at home, for example, is suitable for this.
How important is the right gear when hiking?
Rinio: The team must be perfect from head to toe. Proper hiking gear primarily includes ankle and non-slip shoes. Shoes should be sturdy, breathable, and not too heavy. Make sure the shaft is above ankle level (this reduces the risk of twisting). The heel must be firmly in place. A tread-heavy outsole provides secure grip on uneven terrain.
Breathable clothing is also recommended. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants and wide-brimmed hats protect you from the intense high-altitude sun (don’t forget sunscreen with a high sun protection factor!). As a precaution, wear light rain gear, even when the weather is nice.
An anatomically shaped backpack offers space for supplies (ideally whole grains, baby bottle, vegetables and fruit) and hiking gear, including protection from rain and sun. When packing, think carefully about what you really need to take with you and pack everything systematically. Because the weight distribution determines the backpack’s center of gravity, and it should be as close to the body as possible. Good padding on the back and a padded waist belt pay off.
What are the most common mistakes when hiking?
Rinio: Many beginners just advance without much knowledge. Perfect preparation is the beginning and end of relaxing trips without unpleasant surprises. This starts with careful route planning using good maps and/or GPS.
Mistakes are also often made in the team. It should be clear to everyone, for example, that proper footwear cannot be dispensed with.
Beginners in particular often overestimate themselves: long trails with high levels of difficulty are only for experienced hikers with a grind. And keep a moderate pace, too: breaking a sweat is fine, but if you start panting, that’s too good. As a beginner, you should always warm up slowly for the first 30-40 minutes.
dr Martin Rinio is Medical Director of the Gundelfingen Joint Clinic. A focus of treatment of the specialist in orthopedics, surgery and traumatology are the hip joints and endoprostheses.