We’re now well into my favorite time of year. Trees, flowers, and lawns are coming back to life, daylight is lasting longer and temperatures are getting warmer. It doesn’t get much better than this!
Since I prefer to remain secluded indoors for most of the winter, I’m now looking forward to spending more time outdoors, cleaning the yard, deck and patio, planting my herbs and flower pots, taking long weekend hikes and just generally enjoying the beautiful weather.
So, what could possibly go wrong?
Well, if you’re like me and have hibernated over winter and now are just getting back to an outdoors lifestyle, plenty could go wrong if you are not careful.
Joseph Gregory, MD, a family medicine doctor with Banner Medical Group in Colorado, said during the summer his clinic will often see injuries – such as sprains, fractures and cuts – related to falls as patients become more active outdoors. If you don’t gradually build up your activity after a sedentary winter or overestimate your abilities or stamina, you could easily become overly tired, which could lead to injury.
“Often, patients are just not aware of the threat of injury,” Dr. Gregory said. “This is especially common when an activity involves an out-and-back trail such as hiking or biking. You may be going out for several miles before you realize you are becoming fatigued or that the weather has changed, but now you must turn around and return the same distance. When fatigued, you have more risk for falls and injuries.”
Overusing our joints can also lead to problems, Dr. Gregory said. “Common injuries are related to overuse as we suddenly become more active after a quiet winter. For instance, tendonitis of the elbow is a common injury in tennis or golf.”
And, as I get outdoors to plant and relax on the patio, I need to remember this from Dr. Gregory. “Heat-related injuries and sun exposure injuries are more common” this time of year, he explained. “People may be gardening and not realize the duration of their sun exposure or lack of fluid intake.” To avoid heat and sun exposure issues, Dr. Gregory reminds us to stay hydrated, wear sunscreen and be mindful when we need to head indoors or to a cool shady spot.
“Of course, we want our patients to remain active,” Dr. Gregory explained. “But please be prepared. If you are riding a bicycle, ensure it has been properly maintained. Know the trails and conditions before departing. Understand your limitations and turn around before you become overly fatigued. Use sunscreen and proper clothing for conditions, and be prepared for changes in weather by carrying additional layers and water. And always wear appropriate safety gear for the activity.”
That’s important advice for those of us just coming out of hibernation.