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Strong hiking bones are a treasure.
And you built that treasure during childhood and adolescence as you consumed minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
But just like any treasure, it can be depleted, and should be replenished regularly.
When was the last time you thought about your skeleton?
But let's make a different scary association: losing bone mass as you age, leading to fractures or falls on the hiking trail.
For menopausal women, this topic is very important.
We older hikers want to stay on the trail and have confidence in our ability to hoist packs, navigate safely through all sorts of terrain, and avoid accidents or injury due to weak bones.
So in the interest of strong hiking bodies, let's go over a few bare bones facts.
BONES come in a variety of shapes and sizes in your body, based on where they're located and the jobs they must do:
You have 206 bones in your skeleton - a treasure indeed!
You inherited the genetic code for your bones from your parents.
You built bone mass throughout your early years.
And you enjoyed the strength and resilience of your skeleton throughout your youth and child bearing years.
But maybe things are changing in your body now.
How are you going to protect your bony treasure?
So glad you asked!
There are two keys to strong hiking bones, and you're probably already aware of both of them:
Nutrition and exercise.
Keeping your bone density high involves a steady supply of particular dietary minerals: calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Read about those here.
Of course, the picture is more complicated.
Vitamins such as vitamin D, for instance, are necessary for bone health.
If you're serious about strong hiking bones, consult a trained nutritionist for a customized diet plan. It's a great investment in your health.
Assuming you hike regularly, you're probably getting lots of weight bearing exercise. The more you walk with a pack on, the stronger your bones get.
Pretty simple, right?
Now a few words about avoiding bone problems on the hiking trail.
I'm speaking strictly for myself when I say that I've noticed a definite decline in how limber I feel.
I'm over the age of 50 (way over!), and I no longer wake up after a long cold night in my favorite sleeping bag without feeling my bones creak.
So I'm careful about certain things.
For instance, I make sure that I LOOK before I leap, hop, jump, scramble or descend on the trail.
I don't take chances with my feet or legs while crossing streams, talus slopes, or snow fields. Again, my poles come in handy as I use them to probe ahead of me.
I'm very cautious, and that means I'm slower than I used to be. And I can live with that.
Broken bones are going to sideline me from my hiking agenda, so I am going to do everything in my power to avoid that, even if it earns me the nickname "slowpoke".
Another thing I do is stretch frequently during a hike. This keeps my joints warmed up but not overly tight as I'm bearing the weight of my pack against gravity.
Mobile joints ensure proper function from the bones.
I'm trying to motivate myself to do a few stretches on days when I'm not hiking.... no luck so far. I always use the "too busy" excuse.
But I am really going to work on staying limber over the next few months. Pilates or yoga classes have been known to help with this, and there are some low cost offerings at local community centers.
Keeping muscles strong leads naturally to strong hiking bones.
I don't exactly enjoy working out every day, but I do enjoy knowing what it does for my bones and muscles.
Of course, there's can be too much stress in some circumstances, and a bone can bend, twist, or snap.
Younger bones can bend, while older bones don't have that resilience.
Your first aid training should include what to do for bone fractures. Here are some of the basics.
Strong hiking bones boils down to a mental commitment to your sport: Hiking requires strong bones and muscles, but that in turn requires mindful eating and exercising properly.
And the good news?
By hiking, you're staying strong and healthy!
Every hike you take makes you stronger.
How many other things you do in the course of a year can claim those benefits?
So promise me that you will:
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