Your sneakers are tied, you’ve got your water bottle, you're stretched, the sun is shining and you’re ready to embark on a walk in the great outdoors. While outdoor walking is a great form of exercise, a few things may sabotage your healthy habit.
Before you step out the door, consider these common walking hazards and what you can do to fix them to make your walking routine safer.
1. Be Aware of Your Gait and Any Stability Issues
Pain in your back, knees, hips, ankles or feet can cause issues with your gait and stability, which can lead to falls or other injuries. Dizziness also can affect your stability.
If you suffer from pain in any of the above areas or are worried about your stability, get evaluated by your doctor before beginning a walking routine.
Even if you don’t have any issues that would affect your gait or stability, you should do the following to remain safe:
- Avoid walking on broken sidewalks or uneven pavement
- Wear a good pair of running or walking shoes
- Wear sunglasses
- Use a walking stick if you’re venturing out onto trails
2. Address Any Hearing Impairments
A hearing impairment can keep you from detecting important sounds like oncoming traffic, a car horn or siren while walking.
3. Put your Electronic Device Away
While many people use their phones to play music or podcasts or use fitness trackers while walking, scrolling through—or even just looking down at—the device while walking can pose a danger.
If you’d like to listen to something on your walk, consider using only one earbud so you’ll be able to better hear what’s happening around you. If you have to look down at your device, stop walking. Harvard Health recommends that if you’ve been looking down for longer than a minute, make sure you take note of your surroundings again before starting to walk.
4. Don’t Walk Without a Way to Get Help
Always walk with a friend or, if you’re venturing out alone, keep your mobile device or medical alert device handy to protect you in the event of an injury or sudden illness like a heart attack.
If you walk alone or without any assistive technology, make sure you keep to a populated area where you’ll have a better chance of being discovered in case of an emergency. And if you fall while outdoors, remember to first assess your situation and then find something sturdy—like a car, curb, tree or set of stairs—to use to propel yourself onto your uninjured arm or leg.