by Diane Spicer
Strong hiking bones and muscles are a treasure.
And you built that treasure during childhood and adolescence as you consumed minerals such as calcium and magnesium, and enjoyed vigorous games and sports.
But just like any treasure, it can be depleted, and should be replenished regularly, to keep delivering benefits on the trail.
When was the last time you thought about your skeleton?
But let's make a different scary association:
losing bone mass as you age, which may lead to fractures or falls on the hiking trail.
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 for women of any age.
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.
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?
For ideas on how to stay strong by selecting the right fuel for your hard working hiking body, try these Hiking For Her approaches:
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.
Can you relate?
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.
I'm very cautious, and that means I'm slower than I used to be. And I can live with that.
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, and allow the ligaments and tendons to work smoothly.
Use your poles to aid your stretches. Hold them behind your neck, hands on either end, and lean back a bit.
Pilates or yoga classes have been known to help with flexibility and core strength, and there are some low cost offerings at local community centers.
You might also be eligible for wellness discounts through your health insurer.
I'm doing Vinyassa flow yoga classes, and have made a lovely discovery: the leggings I wear in the yoga studio are also great for spring and fall cool weather hiking!
Keeping muscles strong leads naturally to strong hiking bones.
While you might not enjoy working out, you will
enjoy knowing what these approaches do for your bones and muscles: strong, resilient, flexible and trail ready!!
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 as a hiker should include what to do for bone fractures.
Strong hiking bones and muscles first requires a mental commitment to your beloved sport.
And the good news for hikers?
By hiking, you're staying strong and healthy!
Every hike you take makes you stronger, building on the work you do off trail in your daily life.
How many other things which you do in the course of a year can deliver those huge benefits in strength and conditioning?
So promise me that you will begin to build and maintain these healthy hiking habits today:
On a roll?
Get strong, stay strong!
Strong Hiking Bones
About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She’s been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for nearly five decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.
All rights reserved.
Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.
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