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Now that the weather has warmed up, many people are hitting the hiking trails! If you'd like to be one of them, but you consider yourself a total beginner, there are a few things you're going to want to know in order to get started.

We spoke with OrthoCarolina physical therapist Gary Schneider to learn more about how you can keep yourself safe and uninjured while embarking into the wonderful world of hiking.

 

What Are The Health Benefits Associated With Hiking?

When asked this question, Schneider referred to a 2016 article in the journal of lifestyle medicine that concluded that hiking benefits could be immediate, including decreased blood pressure, decreased stress levels, enhanced immune system functioning, and restored attention, or transpire over time, such as weight loss, decreased depression, and overall wellness.

"I completely believe in all of those benefits," Schneider said. "Hiking gets your blood pressure and heart rate up, so it’s a great, safe form of exercise. Depending on the difficulty of the hike, you can burn some serious calories, similar to a longer run! And there are actual, scientifically proven benefits to spending extended time outside in nature, so that part should not be overlooked."

 

If You've Never Gone Hiking Before, What Will You Need To Get Started?

"You don’t need much! When you’re getting started, you should try an easier hike first, so all you’ll need is athletic clothing and athletic shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty, and you’re pretty much all set," Schneider said. "Bringing a large water bottle is also key, and sunscreen is probably smart."

Beyond that, finding gear is all about what works for your individual needs and wants.

"Don’t go buy an expensive/new backpack just because it looks cool and has all the pockets," Schneider said. "First, get used packs or borrow from friends and try shorter/easier hikes in order to truly test out what kind of gear works best for you."

A few things that Schneider said are generally helpful to have, as a hiker:

  • A lightweight backpack (20-35 Liters) for carrying all your goods
  • Camel back or another hydration pack, OR a larger water bottle
  • Hiking boots, depending on the strenuousness of hike
  • A lighter or dry-fit shirt – and plenty of layers, depending on the weather
  • A hat

"Comfort is the key! What may be comfortable to one person may not be to someone else," Schneider emphasized. "Trial and error!"

 

What Are Some Common Dangers Associated With Hiking, And How Can A Beginner Avoid Them In Order To Stay Safe?

"In the summer heat, I’d say the largest danger of hiking would be becoming overheated," Schneider cautioned. "For that reason, having a hat and a lot of water is key."

He added that taking breaks as needed is also important.

"I would also say to be careful of your footing if you’re on uneven surfaces, because if you aren’t watching your step, you have the potential to tweak your ankle on a rock (even though there is always the potential to tweak your ankle if you aren’t watching your step)," he said. 

 

Learn More About Making Healthy Choices From the Experts at OrthoCarolina

Whether you've recently experienced an injury, need help with recovery after tough workouts, or are simply experiencing chronic pain and need help managing it, OrthoCarolina can help. Make an appointment at a location near you to start getting the treatment you need.