Risks of Walking on an Incline
Walking on an incline engages your calves, quadriceps and glutes, and can also help to strengthen your back and abdominal muscles. Incline walking is a common strategy for adding difficulty to an aerobic workout and can increase your overall physical fitness. However, walking on an incline carries some risks, and people with injuries, chronic illnesses and brittle bones should consult their physicians before beginning a new fitness routine.
Walking uphill is more challenging than walking on a flat surface, and your body has to be strong enough to propel you uphill. If you have poor balance or injured muscles, your risk of falling is increased when walking uphill. This is particularly problematic for people suffering from osteoporosis and for people with a history of injured muscles.
When you walk on an incline, your footing must change to accommodate the shape of the hill, and your feet may bear more weight as your muscles adjust to the new position. Some people experience foot pain when walking uphill. With poorly fitting or new shoes, your risk of blisters also increases. If you continue to walk uphill with blisters and pain, you could develop more serious injuries such a strained or sprained muscles in the foot and ankle or infected blisters. If you're walking at a brisk pace on a hard surface, you may experience joint pain, particularly in the ankles.
Walking up a slight incline is unlikely to cause muscle injuries, but walking up a steep incline requires hard work. Overexertion, particularly if you're not physically fit, is a risk. You may experience sore muscles immediately after walking uphill. Prolonged hill walking can contribute to strains and sprains in the legs, and you may experience muscle knots in your quadriceps and glutes.
Reducing the Risk
To reduce your risk of injury, walk on a flat surface until you've grown accustomed to a walking routine. Then gradually increase the steepness of the incline over the course of several weeks. Wear snug shoes that do not rub or chafe, and consider adding insoles to reduce the impact of walking on your joints. Warm up by walking on a flat surface for five minutes, and stretch before you begin any workout.
- Harvard Medical School: Walking: Your Steps to Health
- Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy: Effects of an Inclined Walking Surface and Balance Abilities on Spatiotemporal Gait Parameters of Older Adults
- Registers of Scotland Executive Agency: Basics Safety Rules for People Who Are New to Hillwalking
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.