Are Your Knees Fit To Hike?

Are Your Knees Fit To Hike?

The popularity of getting out in to nature for hikes and treks has increased over the past few years with many people opting for active weekends and destination holiday hikes and treks.

Preparing for a big hike or trek usually includes a fitness program of some sort and yes, it definitely should include lots of walking.

But walking alone won’t prepare your body for the ups and downs you’ll potentially encounter. Strength, flexibility and balance should be the foundation of a hiker’s fitness program.

And of course, this is what Pilates provides!

One of the potentially biggest issues you may encounter physically on a hike is knee pain, and it isn’t the uphill climbs that will be the cause, it’s the downhill descents.

When you climb a hill, there is a lot of muscle activation, strength needed to haul your body up against gravity using all the big muscles of the hips and legs.

If you get these muscles strong enough to do that and maintain flexibility, then your knees should withstand the rigours of climbing UP hills.

But going downhill, you’re moving with gravity, and your muscles need to act as a “brake” to stop you from falling down the hill.

They need a very specific type of strength to do this, and it’s not a type of strength that most people work on in their training.

What could potentially happen if your muscles aren’t trained for downhill walking, is that the knees and possibly your hips/ankles or lower back end up having to be the “brake”.

This puts an enormous amount of force through the joint/s and could lead to a constant ache, which could lead to a more acute injury/issue.

It can also increase the potential for you to lose your balance and fall, which is not what anyone wants on a hike!

Pilates core strength training is absolutely built to create the specific type of strength, flexibility and mobility needed to handle walking or even running downhill.

And it’s not just about your leg and hip function. When the trunk and torso are core strong, your entire body becomes lighter and more agile, giving a sense of being “light on your feet”.

This leads to less downward pressure on the knee and ankle joints, increasing walking efficiency, particularly when walking downhill.

More efficient walking uses less energy, increasing endurance capability and a higher quality hiking experience.

Pilates should be the foundation of walking/backpacking fitness program to prevent issues and injuries from detracting from an amazing outdoor experience.

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