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Make hiking your health tonic!

Published:Wednesday | January 27, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Hiking is a great way to improve your fitness. It is an escape from the monotony and restrictions of the gym and can provide you with a unique experience.

Hiking can be rigorous enough to improve your strength, endurance, cardiovascular fitness and power and it does not require any special skills other than the physical ability to accomplish the task and familiarity with the route.

Hiking on a variety of terrains, altitudes and angles can be quite taxing on your body. However, every one can find a hiking route to suit his or her physical capability. Hiking has its challenges such as inclement weather, hazardous terrain or taking the wrong turn, but these can be managed quite efficiently by educating yourself before the venture.

You can hike successfully if you begin at a modest pace and progress steadily throughout the journey (especially if you are not in good shape). If you commence the activity at a high level of intensity, you are likely to burn yourself out and increase the chances of injury. Both the distance and speed should be increased gradually.

Low-intensity workout

Hiking can provide you with an excellent low-intensity workout which is a good way to improve your endurance (if you walk at a steady pace for a long time). The hiking routine can be adapted by incorporating short bursts of high-intensity jogs or sprints up a hill followed by periods of rest and then walking to increase your cardiovascular fitness.

Hiking will help to develop strong powerful muscles in your lower body and legs especially if you hike up hill. The uphill walk is also good to prevent osteoporosis, reduce arthritis and relieve back pain. Hiking helps to improve mood, reduce anxiety, depression, and bonds you with your hiking partners.

There are some basic yet important points to make hiking unforgettable:

1. Comfortable footwear including socks will protect your feet and prevent blisters.

2. If the hiking route has many slippery slopes or if there is loose gravel or dirt, this could affect your speed.

3. Try to keep your knees bent and use the side-stepping techniques when you are going uphill especially in steep areas.

4. If you are hiking up or downhill use a stick or pole to give you some extra balance or stability.

5. A hike that takes you to high elevation could necessitate wearing or carrying additional clothes so that you can either add or shed layers as the climate changes.

6. Be sure to carry some drinking water and a tasty snack to help make hiking a regular item on your fitness prescription.

Dr Kenneth Gardner is an exercise physiologist at Holiday Hills Research Center; email:

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Medical ethics conference

The Christian Medical Doctors Association will host its second annual conference on medical ethics this Sunday, starting at 8:30 am at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston. The theme is 'The Physician-Patient Relationship Revisited'.

The guest speakers are Alexis Robinson, attorney-at-law; and Dr Robert Orr, director of clinical ethics and adjunct professor of family medicine at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine. The registration fee is $2,000 (includes lunch). Medical students enter free. For pre-registration, contact Cynthia Curtis,977-5886.