Live Well: June 2022
Take heed of these pointers for being prepared for your outdoor adventures this summer, and learn how spending time outside is good for you.
A day out in nature sometimes comes with cuts, bumps and blisters. Having basic first-aid supplies on hand and properly preparing for your trip will give you peace of mind.
You need more than your phone for safety when hitting the trail. Being ready for minor injuries can help keep your day filled with fun rather than frustration. “You never known when the simplest items can help alleviate a more serious injury,” says John Gareis, regional manager, disaster preparedness for the American Red Cross — Northern Region.
Gareis advises packing a first-aid kit in your vehicle, but the American Red Cross also sells daypack-friendly kits such as its 73-piece Be Red Cross Ready First Aid Kit that comes in a zippered pouch measuring just 9-by-7 inches and includes a variety of bandages, ointments and more to help navigate any bumps along the trail.
“No one plans to be in an emergency and having the [right] tools can prevent injuries from escalating,” Gareis says.
On the Trail: Terrain, weather, insects and other facts of outdoor adventuring can stir up unexpected circumstances, from blisters to bites. Apply insect repellant before you head out and pack for the conditions. “Keep an extra pair of socks in case your feet become blistered from walking, or your socks get wet,” Gareis advises. A rain poncho can be folded and tucked into a backpack without taking up much space or weight.
At Camp: Sparks from a campfire can cause stinging burns that can be addressed with simple first-aid supplies. “Clean the burn gently with soap and water and cover with a dry bandage,” Gareis says. “You may put a thin layer of ointment like petroleum jelly on it but avoid putting ointments on a burn to prevent infection.” A small pair of scissors comes in handy in case you need to cut bandages to size.
On the Road: Your car needs to be prepared for the unexpected, too, be it a breakdown or flat tire. Make sure people will be able to see you if you need to pull off to the side of the road. “Road flares are inexpensive ... Red rags or material can be used to tie onto your mirror if you don’t have flares,” Gareis says. “Bring an extra mobile phone charger, and don’t rely on GPS alone. A paper map is a reliable, old-school backup.”
Physical activity outdoors does a body good in many ways. Here’s how spending time in nature can boost your health, mood and more.
Outdoor exercise does much more for your body than merely burn calories. Fresh air, sunshine and terrain that is more engaging than a treadmill belt deliver health benefits that make it a wise decision to plan on regularly spending more time outside this summer.
“Any workout is better than no workout, but outside there are other stimulants like seeing an eagle flying above you and noticing nature,” says Dr. Sergio Ulloa, orthopedic surgeon for OhioHealth Physician Group Heritage College in Athens.
Here are some health benefits you gain by trading your gym workout for a day in the park or on the trail.
A Boost in Mood: The physical benefits of exercise in nature are well documented, but the effect that spending time outside has on the way you feel gets less attention, Ulloa says. “Getting outdoors gives you some time to reflect or to not worry about your job,” he adds. Fresh air increases oxygen levels in the brain, making you feel happier and less anxious. When you head outdoors with others, the act of socialization is a factor in helping reduce depression. “You can enjoy the outdoors and be with friends who enjoy similar activities,” Ulloa says. “Having that opportunity is valuable.”
More Vitamin D: When your skin is exposed to sunlight, the body produces Vitamin D3, which can protect against osteoporosis, cancer, depression and heart disease. “The sun provides us an opportunity to absorb calcium and releases endorphins,” Ulloa says. Be sure to mind your exposure to the sun and protect your skin. During the summer, as little as 10 minutes outdoors in the sun can reap rewards.
Better Balance: Whether you’re walking along a hilly, wooded trail or navigating sidewalks, outdoor exercise engages different muscle groups that can ultimately improve balance. If you are just starting a walking program, begin with flat and predictable ground and work your way up to different terrain as you grow confidence and stamina. “You’ll use other stabilizing muscle groups including your core and improve mobility in your hips, knees and ankles,” Ulloa says of hiking. “Not only is it a different type of cardio exercise, you’ll activate different muscle groups.” Be sure to wear appropriate shoes, too. “Some people will use a walking stick to provide a sense of stability on irregular terrain,” Ulloa adds.
Welcome Distractions: The sights and sounds of nature help take your mind off the fact that you are exercising, which often results in staying active longer. There are a range of outdoor activities to mix up the way you move, from kayaking and bicycling to hiking and simply strolling in the park. Just get your doctor’s advice and take it slow. “The goal is to be the oldest guy exercising,” Ulloa says, “not the fastest or strongest.”