During monsoon, many people go on trekking trips to enjoy the rain, and the beauty of nature. Trekking or hiking is considered one of the best exercises, which also helps improve bone health. Along with physical health benefits, trekking also improves emotional and mental wellbeing.
For beginners, however, there is always a risk of bone and joint injuries, especially when trekking in the rainy season.
Such injuries may range from sprains/ligament tears around the foot, ankle, knee, shoulders or other joints to fractures to even grievous injuries to the chest or head in case of a fall. “As some of these injuries may lead to lifelong pain or disability, it is better to take utmost precautions to avoid them,” said Dr Anup Khatri, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Global Hospital, Parel Mumbai.
This Bone and Joint Day, annually observed by the Indian Orthopedic Association on August 4, here’s what one should keep in mind.
How is trekking beneficial?
“Trekking strengthens the muscles, especially those of the legs — gluteal muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and hips. It also works on the abdomen, back, and shoulder muscles, helps improve bone density, and slows down osteoporosis,” said Dr Khatri.
Trekking regularly and frequently also reduces blood pressure, and cholesterol and is also known to reduce diabetes. It also increases lung and heart capacity, reduces stress levels and helps in elevating mood and getting relief from anxiety.
To avoid injuries while trekking, one must
*Use trekking shoes with a good grip to avoid slipping.
*Jump or leap carefully after analysing the landing spot.
*Have a solid footing to make proper contact over uneven terrain and have something to grab onto or use for balance like a stick or hiking poles.
*Stretch frequently during a trek. Stretching will keep joints warmed up and flexible to ensure proper joint function and allow ligaments and tendons to work smoothly.
*Use knee or ankle braces or supports if suffering from knee or ankle pain or are more prone to injuries.
*Drink water frequently to avoid dehydration as it may lead to muscle cramps.
*Listen to your body and take regular breaks on long treks or else muscles may get fatigued or go into spasm.
*For instant energy, carry glucose powder, energy drinks or chocolates.
If trekking involves rock climbing, rappelling or rope climbing, proper equipment along with safety gears like helmets, elbow and knee guards, etc should be used.
*Good core strength and balance also helps to reduce falls.
During the expedition, for minor sprains, crepe bandage and ice packs can be applied. For any major injury, some form of rigid immobilisation must be applied. To deal with these injuries on emergency basis, a person must be trained in first-aid.
“If done properly, trekking helps to increase bone strength. We build bone mass throughout our early years in childhood and adolescent life, whereas in old age, we tend to lose it. This leads to osteoporosis and even fractures even with minor falls,” said Dr Khatri.
Two essentials for strong bones are nutrition and exercise
*Dietary minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins such as vitamin D are necessary for good bone health. For muscle wellbeing – vitamin E, essential amino acids, levocarnitine, etc are helpful. People participating in long or frequent treks should visit a trained nutritionist.
*Working out for at least 30 minutes every day helps to keep muscles and bones strong. Swimming, cycling, weight training, endurance exercises, walking uphill with a light backpack are few good routines for good bone strength.
*Pilates and yoga help with flexibility and core strength.