A weekend hike is not just a fun, affordable activity for the whole family, it’s also one of the best ways to enjoy South Africa’s natural beauty. And a great way to get fit! What more could you ask for? Nicole McCreedy leads the way.
Hiking is good for the heart and the soul. Being in nature can help you to de-stress and reduce anxiety levels after a busy week, and when you hike you get all the same benefits of walking – and a few more. Hiking is a powerful cardiovascular workout that is known to reduce cholesterol, which means less risk of heart disease, and it can improve blood pressure. Keeping your heart fit and healthy is important for all diabetics.
So what’s in a hike? The following ingredients:
1 x beautiful trail
1 x pair of shoes
1 x backpack to carry all the essentials
1 x spirit of adventure
What to bring on your hike:
Luckily, you don’t need much equipment to hike. It’s important to research the route beforehand, though, especially if you’re going seriously off-road. Make sure you always hike with other people and pack these essentials:
- A cellphone in case you need to make an emergency call
- A GPS or map so that you don’t get lost.
- Enough water. It’s easy to become dehydrated, especially in warm weather.
- A low blood sugar snack (like dried fruit or juice).
- A mid-hike snack (like fresh fruit, crackers or nuts) to help you maintain your blood sugar levels.
- Your glucometer, strips and insulin, if necessary.
- A hat and sunblock to shield you from the sun.
- Rain gear if it looks like rain!
How to prepare for a hike
Ask the expert: Sarah Hall, Biokineticist
The nature of hiking means that your terrain is unstable and unpredictable. Each step is different from the one before and requires a combination of balance, strength and stability, using one leg at a time. Here’s how to prepare for a hike:
- Start by doing exercises with one leg at a time to isolate muscle groups and encourage improved balance and joint stability. This is called unilateral training.
- Strengthen your glutes and calves to help with climbing and hiking for a longer period of time. Choose exercises like step-ups, standing side leg raises, static lunges and single leg balancing. Try to do 3 sets of 20 of each.
- Alignment is key. Your spine will be taking the load with each step, so be sure to keep your hip, knee and ankle in one straight line for all exercises.
- Always include core exercises that strengthen your abdominals and try to keep your posture upright during the hike.
- To prevent injury during the hike, ensure that you take regular breaks and stretch.
Taking care of your feet
Ask the expert: Anette Thompson, Podiatrist
Here are 5 tips to take care of your feet while out and about hiking:
- Condition your feet It is important to train the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of your ankles and feet for hiking with a backpack.
- Get good footwear and socks Shoes that fit correctly are the most important way to keep your feet happy. When choosing socks, avoid moisture-retaining cotton: instead choose wool or synthetic socks.
- 3. Manage your toenails and skin Socks will catch on nails that are too long or that have rough edges, putting pressure on the nail bed. Take special care of the skin on your heels.
- Learn how to prevent blisters Experiment with different blister patching products and different taping techniques. Find what works for your feet and then perfect the method.
- Carry a small foot care kit A small foot care kit carried in a ziplock bag is easy to carry with your backpack. Include either Vaseline or talcum powder, a few alcohol wipes to clean the skin, some blister plasters and a safety pin to drain blisters (if necessary!).
Foot problems are one of the things that those of us with diabetes need to watch out for. We’ve got some top tips to keep a healthy spring in your step.
- People with diabetes should have their feet examined by their doctor or podiatrist at least once a year, with thorough washing and daily inspections a part of everyone’s diabetes management plan. Be careful to wash and dry properly between the toes, and at the first sign of any sores, blisters and cracks see a podiatrist immediately.
- When cutting your toenails, be sure to cut straight across, without following the curve, and file the edges to smooth them. Be careful not to cut your nails too short. This will prevent ingrown toenails.
- Avoid walking barefoot and have any corns or calluses cut by a medical professional – don’t do it yourself.
- Don’t use hot water bottles or heaters near your feet.
- Moisturize daily to avoid any dryness. Even mild cracking can lead to ulceration. Avoid putting cream between the toes, as this encourages fungal infections.
- Nerve damage caused by high blood sugar levels can cause numbness in the feet. Together with lower production of sweat and oils that lubricate the feet, this can cause increased pressure on the skin, joints and bones of the feet, which in turn causes pain, redness, swelling, sores and ulcers to develop.
- Foot ulcers are reported to affect 1 in 4 people with diabetes in their lifetime. Constant foot care is vital in preventing and treating complications like these.
- Foot ulcers can be stubborn to heal and, in the worst cases, lead to serious lower body infection, disability and even amputation. Contact your podiatrist at the first sign of any problem.
- How do you recognize a foot ulcer? They are often not very painful, and can occur just about anywhere on the foot. When calluses are not removed correctly and often enough, it causes bleeding under the callus, which is how the ulcer begins.
- When it comes to footwear, choose comfort above all else. A good pair of shoes will go miles towards keeping your feet in their best condition.