You know fall’s around the corner when the leaves turn brown, the air feels crisp, and the weather cools down. Most people enjoy fall weather by setting out on the trails for hiking, trail running, mountain biking, etc. Although these activities are a great way to enjoy nature while also getting in good exercise, they can be physically demanding on your body if you aren’t used to this level of exertion. Being exhausted may result in loss of good body form and compensation from other muscles.
When you walk uphill or navigate uneven surfaces, you use a good amount of strength from your core. The core comprises the abdominals, diaphragm, back, and pelvic floor muscles. You also utilize glute and lower leg muscles to stabilize and propel yourself with every step. When these muscles all work together, they keep you balanced and prevent you from tripping over that rock (ouch!). It’s important to be mindful of your core and pelvic floor before hitting the trails to prevent the risk for injuries or falls. Here are our tips for your next hike:
Most times during a hike, you may be looking down at your feet in hopes of avoiding a tripping hazard. However, this may put you in a slouching posture where your head and shoulders roll forward relative to your trunk. This can increase intra-abdominal pressure on your pelvic organs, restrict your rib cage and diaphragm, and strain the muscles of your spine. Being slouched for long periods of time can overstretch and fatigue these muscles leading to back and neck pain. To fix your posture:
The position of the straps and weight of your hiking pack can have an impact on your posture. Your neck and shoulder may slouch forward in order to offset longer backpack straps. Heavier backpacks also place more pressure on your spine and ultimately cause your lower back to arch. You won’t be able to engage your abdominals well if your back is too curved. Ensure that you adjust the straps of your backpack so that it’s closer to your body. Research suggests that maintaining backpack loads of about 10% or less of your body weight reduces changes in spinal posture.
Hiking is like going up a flight of stairs. The same technique you use going up stairs is also seen in climbing up a hill. Lots of hip and knee extension is involved with this movement. Extending your hips and pushing off from your legs increases activation through the glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles. The stronger these muscles are, the more power you have in your strides. If you had a prior injury or pain in your hips and knees, schedule an evaluation with a physical therapist to learn safe strengthening exercises and techniques to prevent injury.
To learn more tips for maintaining good core and pelvic health while hiking, contact a physical therapist at Rebalance PT!
Written by Kimberly Le, PT, DPT
Drzał-Grabiec J;Truszczyńska A;Rykała J;Rachwał M;Snela S;Podgórska J; “Effect of Asymmetrical Backpack Load on Spinal Curvature in School Children.” Work (Reading, Mass.), U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25425595/.
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