Hiking itself is a great form of exercise. It is a good cardiovascular activity, which helps to protect your heart from conditions like heart disease. Not only that but as a weight-bearing exercise, it promotes healthy bone density. This will protect your bones from breakages and other bone issues, particularly later in life.
Short and simple hikes will not require much preparation beyond a thorough warm up. They are a great start in your fitness journey. However, as you advance and attempt more challenging hikes, planned preparation and exercises are essential to a safe and successful journey.
You may imagine that hiking doesn’t take a lot of aerobic fitness. However, when you are tackling a trail with a set number of kilometres until your next stop off point, you will need to be confident you have the stamina to keep moving at pace.
Cardio training like running, swimming or cycling will build up your efficiency and aerobic capacity. Make sure you gradually increase the speed and length of your workouts, so you don’t cause injury or zap your energy sources for regular practice.
As you take on changing terrains while carrying a load in your backpack, your core will become essential to success. It will ensure that your balance and posture are efficient and will help to prevent severe aches and strains.
Incorporate Russian twists, overhead lifts and sit-ups as part of your basic workout. As you get stronger, increase your weights in 2kg increments. The stronger you are, the easier you will find carrying your own weight plus a hiking pack over a distance.
As you will have guessed, strength in your legs is essential to a successful hike. Your legs will take the brunt of your hiking efforts, so prepare them accordingly. Weighted lunges, squats and sessions on a stepper will all help to ensure your lower body is ready for any hiking challenge.
Stretches can often get relegated to simply a warm-up activity. But keeping your muscles loose is a key part of maintaining good health as you hike. You can stretch as part of your workout, and as an activity on its own. Many of these you can fit in while you are waiting for your dinner to cook through, or before you head out to work in the morning.
Sit with your knees pointing outward and the soles of your feet touching. Then wiggle your knees up and down, and gently push your knees as far to the ground as they’ll go. You can also lean forward to intensify this stretch. This will keep your hips and groin open.
To work the hamstrings, sit with your legs out straight. Then lean forward and sweep your hands down the side of your legs as far as you can reach without pain. Then sit back, lifting your arms above your head to start the motion again.
For your glutes, lie on your back with your soles on the floor. Lift an ankle and rest it on the opposite thigh. Then pull that opposite thigh towards your chest, until you feel a deep stretch.
If you feel you might benefit from further stretching (and some people are far “tighter” than others) it may be helpful to incorporate yoga classes as part of your hiking preparation.