The role of hiking activities in improving balance skills to the students of Sports University of Tirana
Through this study, we aim to assess the immediate feedback of hiking on balance and to evaluate gender differences in exercising balance skills. 10 girls and 14 boys aged 19 - 21 years, hiked every two days for 20 days. Each hike day lasted several hours and involved elevation gain on uneven terrain, according to a preset program. Static balance skills were measured by us- ing the Leonardo Mechanography Ground Reaction Force Platform, in two testing sessions, before starting the hiking program and after completing it. In each testing session, the balance test was executed twice, first with eyes open and then with eyes closed. Sway index and relative path length scores were used as indicators of static balance skills. It resulted that hiking has positive effects on balance skills and girls experience more improvement in balance skills than boys. The Sway Index scores, in the open eyes trial, were decreased 26.76% (p < 0.05) Â for the male group, 37.39% (p < 0.05) for the female group and 30.38% (p < 0.05) for the whole group of participants. In the closed eyes trial, the Sway Index scores after hiking were decreased 30.23% (p < 0.05) for the male group, 46.87% (p < 0.05) for the female group and 37.3% (p < 0.05) for the whole group of participants. The relative path length scores, recorded after hiking, were reduced in both open eyes and closed eyes trials, with respectively 14.54% (p < 0.05) and 16.46% (p < 0.05) for the male group, 18.23% (p < 0.05) and 26.35% (p < 0.05) for the female group and 16.08% (p < 0.05) and 20.62% (p < 0.05) for the whole group ofÂ participants. In future it would be beneficial to further study the effect of hiking on both motor and balance skills. An intervention study structured to evaluate the effect of improving motor skills through hiking, as a strategy for exercising balance, is needed.
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