Preparing Your Body for Hiking

Exercises and Stretches for Hiking

The major muscle groups involved in hiking are your quadriceps and glutes, which work together with other smaller muscles that stabilize your hip, knee, and ankle joints. Before getting out on the trail, it is important to make sure these muscles are conditioned for the kind of activity you will be putting them through. Below are a few stretches and exercises to get you ready for the trail. But before you do your exercises, make sure your body is warmed up by just walking around for a few minutes.

man doing warm-up

Single Leg Balancing

Hiking trails usually have uneven and sometimes unpredictable walking surfaces, so ankle stability is key to making sure you don’t roll or sprain your ankle. This exercise will strengthen the muscles in your lower leg that that hold your ankle joint in place. Start by simply standing on one leg without holding on to anything for balance. If this is too easy, you can place a pillow on the floor to make balancing more difficult.

man standing on one leg

Bridging and Side Raises

When hiking uphill, your glutes do most of the work required. These exercises focus on the glutes, but will also help to strengthen your abdominal muscles and other muscles around the hip.

To perform the bridging exercise, lie on the floor and slide your feet towards you until your knees are at about a 90 degree angle. Then, lift your hips up until your torso, hips, and knees are in a straight line. Slowly lower your hips to the ground and repeat. If the two-legged exercise feels too easy, do the exercise as shown in the second picture with one leg.

man performing bridging exerciseman performing one-legged bridge exercise

For the side raises, lie on your side and keep your legs straight. Then raise your top leg up until your raised foot is about 12 inches above the foot on the ground. Slowly lower your leg back down and repeat with both legs.

man doing side leg raise exercise

Stretches before you begin

Quad stretch

Standing upright, raise your foot up behind you to a point where you can grab it with the hand on the same side of your body (left leg with left hand; right leg with right hand). Stabilize yourself against a wall or countertop if needed, then hold your leg in a flexed position for 30-45 seconds and repeat for the opposite leg.

man stretching quad

Hip side stretch

Standing upright, place one hand on your hip and bend sideways at the waist while keeping your chest facing forward. While bending, reach over the top of your head with your free hand. You should feel a stretch in the area between the top of your hip and your bottom rib. Hold this position for 30-45 seconds and switch sides.

man stretching hip

And with that, you are ready to hit the trails!

man giving high five


Physical Therapy vs Opioids: When to Choose Physical Therapy for Pain Management


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sales of prescription opioids have quadrupled in the United States. even though “there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report.”

In March 2016, the CDC released opioid prescription guidelines in response to a growing opioid epidemic. The guidelines recognize that prescription opioids are appropriate in certain cases such as cancer treatment and end-of-life care, and also in certain acute care situations if dosed properly.

But for other pain management, the CDC recommends non-opioid approaches including physical therapy.

Patients should choose physical therapy when…

  • … The risks of opioid use outweigh the rewards.
    Potential side effects of opioids include depression, overdose, and addiction, plus withdrawal symptoms when stopping opioid use. The CDC guidelines state that because of these risks, “experts agreed that opioids should not be considered firstline or routine therapy for chronic pain,” . Even in cases when evidence on the long-term benefits of non-opioid therapies is limited, “risks are much lower” with non-opioid treatment plans.
  • … Patients want to do more than mask the pain.
    Opioids reduce pain by blocking pain signals to the brain. Physical therapists treat pain through movement while working with patients to improve or maintain their mobility and quality of life.
  • … Pain or function problems are related to low back pain, hip or knee osteoarthritis, or fibromyalgia.
    The CDC cites “high-quality evidence” that supports exercise as part of a physical therapy treatment plan for these conditions.
  • … Your clinician prescribes opioids for pain. 
    The CDC recommends that patients should receive “the lowest effective dosage,”. Clinicians should prescribe opioids along with non-opioid therapies, such as physical therapy.
  • … Pain lasts 90 days.
    Clinicians now consider the pain “chronic,” and the risks for continued opioid use are increased. An estimated 116 million Americans have chronic pain each year. The CDC guidelines note that non-opioid therapies are “preferred” for chronic pain and that opioid therapy should be an option only if expected benefits for both pain and function are going to outweigh risks to the patient.

Before you agree to a prescription for opioids, consult with a physical therapist to discuss options for nonopioid treatment.

The CDC states “Given the substantial evidence gaps on opioids, uncertain benefits of long-term use and potential for serious harm, patient education and discussion before starting opioid therapy are critical so that patient preferences and values can be understood and used to inform clinical decisions,”

Physical therapists play a valuable role in patient education, including setting realistic expectations for recovery with or without opioids.

Compliments of Move Forward: Physical Therapy Brings Motion to Life

Knee Pain Explained

Knee pain is a fairly common issue, with approximately 1 in 4 American adults experiencing knee pain affecting the function of the knee. The prevalence of knee pain has increased over the past 20 years, with osteoarthritis being the most common cause in people over the age of 50. When knee pain occurs as a result of injury, it is most often associated with knee cartilage tears. These injuries can result from direct blows or sudden movements that cause the joint to go beyond its normal range of movement. Knee pain can cause difficulty performing activities such as walking, rising from a chair, climbing stairs, or playing sports. Physical therapists have specific training to help diagnose and treat knee pain, and help individuals return to their normal activities without pain or limitation.

Continue reading