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4 Amazing Tips for Maintaining Core and Pelvic Health on Your Next Hike

pelvic health

4 Essential Tips for Maintaining Core and Pelvic Health on Your Next Hike

pelvic health

As autumn approaches, the landscape transforms with leaves turning brown, the air becoming crisp, and the weather cooling down. Many people embrace the fall season by heading outdoors for activities like hiking, trail running, and mountain biking.

While these endeavors offer a fantastic way to enjoy nature and get some exercise, they can place significant physical demands on your body, especially if you’re not accustomed to such exertion. Fatigue can lead to poor body form and muscle compensation.

When you’re trekking uphill or navigating uneven terrains, your core muscles play a vital role. Your core includes muscles such as the abdominals, diaphragm, back, and pelvic floor muscles.

Additionally, your glutes and lower leg muscles work to stabilize and propel you with each step. When all these muscles work together harmoniously, they keep you balanced and help prevent accidents and injuries on the trail. To ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience, here are our top tips:

1. Be Mindful of Your Posture

During a hike, it’s common to focus on your footing to avoid tripping hazards. However, this can lead to a slouched posture, causing your head and shoulders to roll forward relative to your trunk.

This posture increases intra-abdominal pressure on your pelvic organs, restricts your rib cage and diaphragm, and strains your spinal muscles. Prolonged slouching can overstretch and fatigue these muscles, resulting in back and neck pain. To maintain good posture:

  • Stand tall and lengthen your spine, as if an invisible string is pulling you upward.
  • Tuck in your chin and pull your shoulders back.
  • Keep your gaze directed at your feet without leaning your neck and shoulders forward.

2. Adjust Your Backpack

The position of your backpack straps and the weight distribution can affect your posture. Longer backpack straps can cause your neck and shoulders to slouch forward, while heavier backpacks can increase pressure on your spine, leading to lower back arching. If your back is too curved, it becomes challenging to engage your abdominal muscles effectively. Adjust your backpack’s straps so that it’s closer to your body. Research suggests that maintaining a backpack load of around 10% or less of your body weight reduces changes in spinal posture.

3. Extend Your Hips

Hiking shares similarities with climbing stairs, as both activities involve extensive hip and knee extension. Proper hip and knee extension activate your glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles, providing you with more power in your strides. If you have a history of hip or knee pain, consider scheduling an evaluation with a physical therapist to learn safe strengthening exercises and injury prevention techniques.

4. Don’t Hold Your Breath

Surprisingly, your breathing can affect your pelvic floor muscles. Your diaphragm, the breathing muscle at the bottom of your rib cage, moves in coordination with your pelvic floor. Correct breathing involves the diaphragm moving downward during inhalation, causing the pelvic floor to lower or stretch. During exhalation, the diaphragm rises, reducing intra-abdominal pressure, and causing the pelvic floor to contract and rise into the pelvis. Holding your breath disrupts this rhythm, potentially leading to pelvic floor issues like urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. Practice “belly breathing” to ensure that your abdomen expands when you inhale and returns to its resting position during exhalation.

For more expert tips on maintaining excellent core and pelvic health during your hikes, don’t hesitate to contact a physical therapist at Rebalance PT! Your well-being and enjoyment of the great outdoors are our priorities.

Written by Kimberly Le, PT, DPT

Reference:

Drzał-Grabiec J;Truszczyńska A;Rykała J;Rachwał M;Snela S;Podgórska J; “Effect of Asymmetrical Backpack Load on Spinal Curvature in School Children.” Work (Reading, Mass.), U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25425595/.

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