Safe Hill Walking

The beginning of the year is usually a time of feeling heavy from the overindulgence of yummy treats from the Christmas/New Year break. One way that Townsvillians usually burn off those extra calories is walking up the local landmark Castle Hill.

Hill walking is a wonderful form of exercise to increase cardiovascular health, increase leg strength and tone lower limb musculature, loose weight and decrease stress levels.

Hill walking does have its downsides, however, it can leave you more susceptible to the following:

  • ankle sprains,
  • plantar faciitis (inflammation of the plantar facia on the bottom of your foot),
  • archilles tendinopathy,
  • calf strains,
  • hip pain and
  • patello-femoral (knee) joint pain.

So how do you prevent these injuries? Here are some tips:

1. Warm up. Start with 5minutes walking on the flat before you tackle the hill

2. Start gradually. Walk uphill 1-2 times per week for 2 weeks to start, and increase your frequency over time. Exercising 3-4 times per week is ideal.

3. If you’ve never done hill walking before start on the flat at the start of your walk and do 10-15minutes of hill walking initially. You can then increase this by 5minutes each week.

4. Ensure that you have good posture when you walk. Stay as upright as possible and maintain a normal gait i.e. don’t bend over as you walk up, have your feet in line with your hips and toes pointing forwards. Your knee should bend in line with your second toe with each step forward.

5. Stretch when you get to the top of your hill walk before heading down again. Stretching is better done when your muscles are warm. Spend 5mintues at the top of the hill and enjoy the view while you work on your flexibility (pictures below).

6. Avoid running downhill. The constant impact on your joints, coupled with your muscles working over time to decelerate you leave you very susceptible to injury.

7. Gradually increase your pace. Time yourself and aim to slowly decrease your time each week. If your fitness has increased enough you can try jogging up hill for part of your walk. Try jogging for 1min then walking for 1minute and gradually increase your jog time until you can make it to the top without walking.

8. Supplement your hill walking with strengthening exercises. These can be done at the gym or at home. Areas to target include: your quadriceps (specifically the inside muscle above your knee cap) and your gluteal muscles (see below for pictures).

Stretches and strengthening exercises to keep you injury free when hill walking:

note: hold all stretches for 30-60seconds on each side

Lunge

This exercise will strengthen the Vmo (The muscle on the inside of your quadriceps). Keep mid knee in line with 2nd toe. Aim for 10sec hold x 10 reps and 2-3 sets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gastroc stretch

Drop heel off a step and hold. Repeat with knee bent to stretch your soleus muscle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Gluteal stretch

Sit with one leg crossed over the other. Slowly lean forward until a stretch is felt in your bottom on the side of the bent knee.

 

 

 

 

Illiotibial band stretch

Cross left leg behind right. Lift left arm up and lean your whole body to the right. Push your hips to the left to intensify the stretch.

 

 

 

 

 

Quadriceps and Hip flexor stretch

Stand on one leg. Bend your knee and grasp one foot with your hand. Gently pull foot towards buttocks until a stretch is felt at the front of your thigh. Keep knees together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hill walking is a great form of exercise. If you have any questions about these tips, feel free to contact our friendly staff on 47240768 or via email at: reception@physionorth.com.au. We hope to see you on the hill soon!

Jaquie

Physiotherapist