The spine is a delicate structure that’s extremely sensitive to injury, aging, and even lack of activity. If you put too much pressure on your spine, it will answer with pain. If you neglect it by living sedentary, your back will start to hurt. When it comes to the spine, balance is of vital importance.
One of the healthiest and most balanced ways to care for your spine is – hiking.
Walking in nature is beneficial for the body, mind, and soul. If you happen to live in or near Mesa, you know that Arizona has no shortage of hiking trails. This part of the country is blessed with wonderful weather, incredible terrain, and breathtaking scenery, but the following trails are the best.
Desert Trails Park Loop (0.8 miles)
If this is your first time hiking, the Desert Trails Park Loop is the best trail for beginners. The Park Loop is a popular biking trail in the Red Mountain district, but hikers are also welcome. There’s parking and bathrooms, making Park Loop a fantastic trail for families with children.
Brown Road Hill (1 mile)
Another great trail for beginners, Brown Road Hill is a beautiful spot off of Brown Road with a cherry on top. As you climb to the top of the 300 feet hill, a beautiful city view awaits you. Brown Hill is especially beautiful at sunset or after nightfall when all the city lights are turned on.
Hawes Trail System (Distance Varies)
Hawes Trail System is Mesa’s well-hidden gem. As its name suggests, Hawes is a system of many trails of different lengths and for various skill levels. There’s free parking in multiple spots in the area. Hawes boasts lush wildlife, with horses, bobcats, and snakes casually passing by.
Massacre Falls Trail, Tonto National Forest (5.4 miles)
Massacre Falls Trails requires some planning and experience. It is a 100 ft climb with scarce shade, so don’t go unprepared. The star feature of this trail is a waterfall, which is at its fullest after it rains. The Massacre trail is a half-hour drive from Mesa, but it’s definitely worth it.
Pass Mountain, Usery Pass Mountain Regional Park (7.2 miles)
As you get more and more experienced at hiking, new terrains open up, such as Pas Mountain trail, one mile away from the Hawes Trail System. It’s a mountain trail, but it’s not a steep climb. Eventually, you’ll arrive at the 950 feet top with plenty of shade under the mountain cliffs.
How Hiking Benefits Your Spine (And the Rest of Your Body)
Hiking is great for spine health. Because it is an activity that engages the entire body, it has a synergistic effect on the physique. It can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, and combat diabetes, as well as reduce anxiety and depression and improve sleep.
And if you’re living with back pain and other spine-related problems, hiking packs a full range of health benefits that can help you get rid of pain and improve your quality of life:
- Hiking boosts blood circulation, which is especially important for dried-out spinal disks;
- It strengthens the muscles – back muscles, hip flexors, hamstrings, and many others;
- It improves the flexibility of the spine, joints, and ligaments, unlocking the full range of motion;
- Hiking improves balance and fixes bad posture by activating your back, core, and legs;
- It alleviates stiffness and pain in your back, hips, legs, and joints and eliminates headaches;
- Hiking helps postpone and ease the painful symptoms of osteoporosis and arthritis.
As you can see, hiking offers many benefits and has no real downsides.
How to Improve Your Posture and Avoid Pain While Hiking
If you’re living with back pain, hiking can help you ease your symptoms. However, you must be mindful of your hiking posture and technique, as putting too much weight on your spine can worsen the pain. There’s no room for fear, though, only caution. Be gentle with your body.
There are two things that can be of great help in improving your hiking posture. The first one is your backpack, which must be properly sized and strapped around your back and waist to distribute the weight equally. The second thing you’ll need are trekking poles, which keep your body upright and stable.
Hiking is a fantastic way to keep your spine muscles active without pushing them too hard. If you do it properly, it can keep spine-related pain away for years. Stretching is another big part of the routine, but so is choosing the best trail. Fortunately, that isn’t the problem in Mesa, Arizona.