By Rita La Rosa Loud, B.S.

John and Sarah, a senior couple, are avid hikers.  However, they did not start off that way.  Afflicted with knee issues, weak leg muscles and lack of endurance, they were ill-prepared for the uneven, rocky hiking terrain.  Realizing the need to get stronger before embarking on this otherwise healthy outdoor activity, they decided to enroll in a resistance exercise program.  A wise decision on their part. 


As a senior, on the spur of the moment I went hiking, foolishly not wearing the appropriate footwear, spraining my ankle on the descent requiring a visit to the emergency ward.  A painful injury such as this can take weeks to heal.  Yet, I recovered in two days and went back to teaching movement classes without complication.  My doctor was astonished!  As a result of strengthening my upper and especially lower body muscles, I healed in a relatively short time.   


Although hiking is an effective means of working the muscles of the legs and hips it can cause muscle discomfort for people, like John and Sarah, who are not well-conditioned for this activity.  In the following quote by researcher, Wayne Westcott, Ph.D. he summarizes helpful hiking and fitness points: “Hill hiking is an excellent exercise for both the muscular and cardiovascular systems.  Uphill hiking is more challenging for the cardiovascular system, but downhill hiking is even more challenging for the muscles of the legs as they resist the pull of gravity to maintain balance and body control.”  Another reason why yours truly lost footing and twisted the ankle.  

Dr. Westcott further states: “Downhill hiking typically causes muscle soreness, especially the day after the hike.  In our H-Wave Hiking Study, electrical stimulation helped the muscles to recover more quickly.  However, a moderate effort walk (on level terrain) the following day would also aid the recovery process.”


In preparation for confidently tackling hiking trails, John and Sarah’s well-planned exercise program consisted of improving balance to prevent falls, flexibility to enhance posture, endurance to boost cardiovascular function, and strength to build bone and core muscles that stabilize the body, all of which help seniors get ready for any hiking challenge.  Initially working on shorter and flatter hiking trails to build fitness prior to attempting more challenging surfaces and areas is highly recommended to reduce the chance of injury.  “Oh!  And don’t forget to wear proper footwear!”


To build the strength and stamina of your entire body, consider Wayne Westcott, Ph.D. Center for Health and Fitness at Quincy College’s supervised balanced and comprehensive strength, cardiovascular, stretching, and functional training program.  Located at President’s Place, 1250 Hancock Street, schedule a tour, free training session, or to register, call Rita at 617.405.5978.  Free street parking is available, and a parking garage is next to the building. 

Rita La Rosa Loud holds a B.S. in Exercise Physiology with additional education in Sports Medicine and Athletic Training. She is NASM Certified, and has been actively involved in the fitness industry for over 35 years. An author, she writes fitness-related articles for various fitness publications. A Fitness Researcher, Rita directs the Wayne Westcott, Ph.D. Center for Health and Fitness at Quincy College.  She can be reached at 617.405.5978.e