Fitness tips to keep in mind before trekking to keep your bones and joints safe
Trekking improves physical health and emotional and mental wellbeing. For the beginners or someone who is not much experienced, there are high chances of bone and joint injuries especially during trekking in rainy seasons. Here are some tips and precautions
With the monsoons around and nature at its best, many people go out for trekking or hiking, which is considered one of the best exercises for health, including improvement of bone strength. Along with physical health benefits, trekking also improves emotional and mental wellbeing but for the beginners or someone who is not much experienced, there are high chances of bone and joint injuries especially during trekking in rainy seasons.
Such injuries may range from sprains/ligament injuries around the foot, ankle, knee or shoulders or other joints to fractures to even some grievous injuries to chest, head due to major falls while on trek. Since some of these injuries may lead to lifelong pain or disability, its better to take utmost precautions to avoid them.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Anup Khatri, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Global Hospital in Parel Mumbai, listed some tips to avoid injuries while trekking –
1. Use trekking shoes with good grip to avoid slipping.
2. Make sure to look before a jump or leap.
3. Have a solid footing to make proper contact over uneven terrain and have something to grab onto or use for balance like a stick or hiking poles.
4. Stretch frequently during a trek. Stretching will keep joints warmed up and flexible to ensure proper joint function and allow ligaments and tendons to work smoothly.
5. One must use knee or ankle braces or supports if one suffers from knee or ankle pain or are more prone to injuries.
6. Drink water frequently to avoid dehydration as it may lead to muscle cramps.
7. Listen to your body and take regular breaks on long treks or else muscles may get fatigued or go into spasm.
8. For instant energy carry glucose powder or energy drinks or chocalates.
9. If trekking involves rock climbing, rappelling or rope climbing proper well-maintained equipment’s along with safety gears like helmets, elbow and knee guards, etc should be used.
10. Good core strength and balance also helps to reduce falls.
11. During the expedition, for minor sprains crepe bandage and ice packs can be applied. For any major injury, some form of rigid immobilization must be applied. To deal with these injuries on emergency basis, a person must be trained in first aid.
12. If done properly, trekking helps to increase the bone strength. We built bone mass throughout our early years in childhood and adolescent life, whereas during old age we tend to lose bone mass. This leads to osteoporosis and may lead to bone fractures even with minor falls.
13. Two keys to strong bones are nutrition and exercise.
14. Dietary minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamins such as vitamin D are necessary for good bone health. For muscle wellbeing – vitamin E, essential amino acids, levocarnitine, etc are helpful. People participating in long or frequent treks should visit a trained nutritionist.
15. Workout for at least 30 minutes every day helps to keep muscles and bones strong. Swimming, cycling, weight training, endurance exercises, walking uphill with a light backpack are few good routines for good bone strength.
According to Dr Pallavi Gamre, Consultant Physiotherapist at Masina Hospital, there are many tips to follow before you move for a trek to improve your joint stability and to keep your joints and muscles safe. She highlighted, “There are basically three points which you have to take into consideration. First is to improve the strength, flexibility, endurance and stability of your body and the second is lung capacity and diet. First thing is, before you go for a trek you have to make sure that you have been practicing strengthening exercises because once you go for the track you have to track upwards plus the surface is uneven. So, to maintain the balance, to maintain the strength and not get fatigue or when you're trekking, you should at least 15 to 20 days prior, start your strengthening exercises, which includes the whole-body strengthening flexibility and improve the balance.”
She explained, “Once the muscle strength is good, it helps you to improve the balance, which will help you further to maintain the balance when you are trekking because the surface is very uneven. The, second thing is lung capacity because as we trek we go to the higher altitude where the oxygen level is, less so to maintain the lung capacity, to maintain the oxygen in your body, you have to start breathing exercises, prior you go to the trek. To improve your lung capacity there are many lung exercises like thoracis expansions, diaphragmatic breathing, segmental breathing. If you practice all these breathing exercises, it helps you to improve your lung capacity and as you move to the higher altitude, your body is then prepared to maintain the oxygen level and not experience breathlessness or fatigue.”
Pointing out that the last important point tip is diet, Dr Pallavi Gamre insisted, “Before you go for trek, you should know what you're supposed to eat, because if you eat more of fatty or street foods, then it will not give you required nutrition and strength, which you require for the trek. Eating a healthy balanced diet before going to the trek is very important because you need proteins and carbs to maintain strength of your body and also drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated. Otherwise because of dehydration the body will face fatigue and be week. And then you will not be able to continue your trek.”
She concluded, “These were the three main things to keep in mind. First is exercising – You have to exercise to improve your strength, maintain your flexibility, improve your endurance before you go for the trek. The second thing is the lung capacity – performing breathing exercises to maintain and improve on lung capacity. Third is diet – having a balanced diet and keeping yourself hydrated.”