FitDiver® Magazine June 2016 - Page 43

Hiking Helps Divers

Stay in Shape

Getting outdoors and exploring nature topside is one of the best ways divers can condition and strengthen their bodies for diving. Near home, community parks offer trail systems often around local waterways, such as lagoons and lakes, through wildlife preserves, and across picturesque cityscapes. Many dive destinations offer opportunities to hike lush tropical forests, coastal trails, and volcanoes. Hiking may be done with groups and guides for interests such as bird watching, and is often combined with other recreational activities like, camping, kayaking and snow shoeing. Imagine a campfire on the beach after a full day of diving followed with a relaxing day of fly fishing before heading up a mountain trail. The possibilities of a healthy active diving lifestyle are as endless as the horizon.

Hiking and diving are similar in their use of multiple muscle groups, and movements associated with wearing backpacks like scuba tanks, the handling of gear, uneven terrain, and the feel-good experience of being close to nature. And, just like a favorite pair of fins, trail shoes or hiking boots are a must. Hiking and diving are quite different too. Although many aspects of hiking emulate diving activities, hiking gets all of the credit for producing the adaptive physical responses of training and improved fitness that are precluded at depth when diving. When climbing and descending mountain trails, aerobic endurance is improved with steady increases in heart rate for longer periods of time. During hiking the lower body, in particular, is strengthened with repetitive exertion using the muscles of the legs, back, hips and torso. Hiking provides big crossover benefits for divers.

Hiking on dive vacations takes a bit of planning. First, it is important to remember to avoid physical exertion and higher altitudes for 24-hours after diving, and diving at high altitudes requires special training. Divers are also trained to avoid exertion at depth to reduce risks associated with decompression sickness. It is best to prepare a few months in advance; hiking and exercising on dry land to establish and maintain physical fitness for all diving activities.