One of the best things about living in Arizona is the abundance of hiking trails. With sunny skies the majority of the year, Arizonans are able to enjoy the outdoors virtually year round.
On many occasions, I have seen patients with either a new injury from hiking, or from a previously resolved injury that got exacerbated by hiking. Due to the physical demand of even the smallest and easiest hiking trails, it is not uncommon to develop some aches and pains resulting from a hike. Over the years, I have offered advice to minimize risk of injury.
This one is, or at least should be, obvious. Often people underestimate the dehydrating effect of a hike. Also, don’t think this only applies to the summers. Cooler weather days in Arizona are often very dry as well. In addition, excessive sweating, no matter what the ambient temperature is, can lead to dehydration. Dehydration can lead to headaches, muscle cramping, dizziness, confusion and fainting. So, bring water with you on your hike and drink before, during, and after your hike.
Flexibility is key to prevent injury in any type of exercise. Flexibility of the joints that are involved in hiking (specifically hips, knees, ankles) allows for full range of motion. Lack of flexibility in joints can lead to injury when the joints are forced to move out of their normal range of motion. This can lead to sprain/strains or even worse, tears.
Taking breaks when hiking will allow for muscles to recover. When muscles are too fatigued, this makes them vulnerable, and can ultimately, lead to injury.
Focus on utilitarian and function rather than fashion (sorry Lululemon). Wear good supportive shoes, proper clothing, a hat and sunscreen.
Know your limits
It’s ok to challenge yourself, but pushing yourself when hiking on Arizona trails, especially when you’re deconditioned, not prepared, or have a medical condition, can lead to injury.
So, next time you decide to take advantage of one of Arizona’s beautiful hiking trails, be smart and follow the pointers provided above. Also, ask the advice of your Physical Therapist at ReThrive to determine whether you are physically capable.