Happy (and Healthy!) Trails to You

April 26, 2021

Happy (and Healthy!) Trails to You

woman hiking in woods

From exploring state park hiking paths to cycling city bike trails, opportunities abound for outdoor activities.

“The numerous benefits of outdoor exercise go beyond the body to touch the mind and spirit. It also refreshes your mind and mood,” said Jonathan Buchanan, MD, sports medicine physician of Avera Orthopedics in Sioux Falls, S.D.

In the Upper Midwest, people often are deficient in vitamin D, which is made when our skin is exposed to sunlight.

We need vitamin D to absorb calcium and keep our bones healthy. In effect, the vitamin D gained during outdoor exercise helps make our bones stronger. But hitting the trails might also cause injuries if you don’t prepare in advance. Wrist fractures, clavicle (collar bone) injuries, knee injuries, and more can occur when people bike without the appropriate gear.

People often need orthopedic care after a sports-related accident, such as falling off of their bike. Or, maybe they are not wearing the appropriate gear or not paying attention. Sometimes other people don’t see them and pass too closely, and they lose balance and fall over.

To help prevent injuries, invest in a good bike and wear a helmet, protective glasses, and wrist guards. Brightly colored clothing will help other cyclists see you, and if you are riding in the dark, have a light on your bike as well.

Biking is a low-impact activity, and similar outdoor exercises help lubricate joints, work muscles, increase heart rate, and lower blood pressure.

“It’s recommended that every adult should get 50 minutes of weight-bearing exercise five days a week,” added Buchanan. “Mix up low-impact activities and high-impact activities that get your heart rate up. The most important thing is to move.”

Whether you hit the trails often, or would like to give it a try, find a trail near you where you can take your jogging shoes, hiking boots or bike:

Tips for Biking and Hiking on the Trails

Tanner White, Certified Personal Trainer and Director of the Avera Human Performance Center in Aberdeen, S.D., offers these tips for minimizing the risk of orthopedic injuries and getting the most out of a bike ride, walk or hike.

Before You Exercise

Get warmed up. “You want to get your body moving and replicate the exercises you will be doing during the activity,” said White. It might include a five-minute joy ride on your bicycle, squats, or lunges.

Dynamic stretches (stretches not held for too long) warm up your muscles. However, wait for more intense stretching until the end of your workout.

During Your Workout

Keep proper body mechanics in mind. It’s important to understand your own center of gravity. If hiking, keep your backpack weight close to your back. Engage your core. Don’t bend over or stoop, and always maintain proper posture.

If you want to get more from your workout, every half mile of your hike, include some body weight exercises such as squats or push-ups.

After You Exercise

After your muscles have been warmed up during exercise is the time for static, longer stretches in which you hold the stretch for 30 seconds each.

“By letting your body cool down and going through a quality stretching routine, you give your body a chance to increase its flexibility and mobility which leads to a better lifestyle,” said White.

Another important step is to replenish fluids (drink water!) and other nutrients.

“The real goal is to make exercise sustainable throughout your life. While you are out there, have fun with it, get some physical activity with the proper body mechanics, and make it part of your everyday life,” said White.