Follow OSR Physical Therapy’s guide for healthier hiking.
The Physical, Social, & Mental Benefits of Hiking
Whether you’re trekking across mountainous terrain, beaten-down forest trails, or prairie walks: hiking helps you live a better life in all sorts of ways. OSR Physical Therapy has highlighted some of the best benefits for boosting your body, mind, and overall wellness.
Strengthen Your Body
One of the most obvious physical health benefits of hiking is that it can be a great, adjustable workout. It increases bone density because you’re carrying your weight across changing elevation levels. It also augments your balance, promotes lower-body muscle growth, increases cardiovascular health, and burns more calories (than walking on a treadmill) for the same reason!
Clear Your Mind
If you start hiking as part of your regular schedule, the mental benefits of hiking can be enormous. A good trail that escapes the city streets or gym walls alleviates depression, anxiety, stress, and negativity. Immersing yourself in the wilderness even inspires your creativity and sustainably fuels your work or personal life.
Build Your Relationships
Hiking can be great solo, but it’s awesome when you take your family, friends, and pets along on your journey! Being all together, coupled with the other mental benefits of hiking, enhances everyone’s mood, relieves stress, and creates a positive environment. It’ll keep you all talking and laughing the whole way through.
How to Hike Pain-Free
While hiking has a lot of positives, there are some injuries you could be at risk for if you’re not careful. This includes sore or pulled muscles, shin splints, broken toenails, joint pain, or a sprained ankle.
It’s best to start with lighter hiking and then advance to more rigorous trails if desired. You should always dress the part by wearing comfortable, supportive shoes and moisture-wicking clothing. We also detail the equipment you can take and the stretches you can do to avoid hurting yourself in the process.
Trekking or hiking poles may seem like a bit much initially, but they’re great for stabilizing your movement and taking the load off your knees to balance it on your upper body and core muscles. This transfer of weight-bearing also engages your glutes and back muscles when going uphill too!
They’re most helpful when held lightly like ski poles, and at a 90-degree angle to your elbows. Shorten your hiking poles when going uphill and lengthen them for downhill traveling.
Bring a backpack to further the health benefits of hiking. Consider the length of your hike and the number of items you want to have on you—water, snacks, sunscreen, or a portable charger—to determine the capacity. Features such as a water holder or chest or waist straps can make traveling with this added weight easier. You’ll also want to test out how it fits to ensure you can walk securely.
Even if you plan to go on just a short hike—bring plenty of water. This could come in the form of a water bottle or a hydration pack/reservoir. We recommend taking at least a half-liter of water for a moderate hike in nice weather.
This amount varies based on:
- Physical Health
Water is imperative to maximizing the physical and mental benefits of hiking while also preventing harm.
Single Leg Swings
1-2 sets x 20 repetitions on each leg
1. Stand and maintain upright position
2. Hold arms straight out to the sides
3. Swing each leg forward and backward
1-2 sets x 15 repetitions on each leg
1. Stand upright
2. Take a large step forward, lower yourself, then return to the starting position
a. Hold a 90-degree knee position at your lowest point
3. Repeat this with each leg going sideways and backward as well
Lower-Quarter Anterior Reach
1-2 sets x 15 repetitions on each leg
1. Stand upright and balance on one bent leg
2. Slowly bring your free leg forward and back under you
3. Repeat this with each leg
OSR Physical Therapy in AZ
The health benefits of hiking are massive—especially with the right tools and stretches at your disposal. A visit to OSR Physical Therapy can take this a step further.
Our expert physical therapists can guide you through a preventative care plan or create a custom-made treatment solution to support your hiking lifestyle. Together, with the help of our innovative facilities and equipment, we’ll make sure you’re ready to make the most out of your hiking experience.
Contact us today to get started!