Exercise is vital for physical, mental and emotional health, especially when paired with a big dose of fresh air. Now that COVID-19 stay-at-home guidelines are being relaxed gradually, it’s a great time to get outside and get active. It’s also more important than ever to stay safe and injury-free.
Stick to COVID-19 guidelines
We’ve all done a great job to help flatten the COVID-19 curve. Let’s keep it up. Continuing to follow state and CDC guidelines will help keep you and others protected, even when you’re outdoors.
- Keep your distance. COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact for a prolonged period. Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from people you don’t live with. That means avoiding popular or crowded areas.
- Pack hand sanitizer. While not a substitute for handwashing, hand sanitizer can quickly reduce many types of microbes when soap and warm water aren’t available. Always use hand sanitizer before eating or if you come in contact with high-touch surfaces, such as benches, overlook or bridge railings, golf carts or bicycle handlebars.
- Stay close to home. Remote wilderness and far-off country roads might be calling, but now’s not the time to answer. You don’t want to risk an injury far from home. Choose destinations that are near where you live and close to proper medical care.
- Bring a face mask or covering. The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. While you may not need it while exercising outdoors on your own or with members of your household, there may be times you’re unable to avoid close contact with others.
Tips for staying active and healthy
Gearing up for biking
Bike riding for exercise or essential trips is a great way to keep your body and mind in tune, especially when you practice these simple safeguards.
- Opt for the open road. Avoid narrow roads or bike paths to keep social distance between you and others.
- Make sure the fit is right. Always wear a properly fitted helmet and make sure your bike is the right size for you.
- Put safety first. Follow the rules of the road and obey all traffic laws.
- Prevent wear and tear. Proper stretching, warm up and conditioning will help prevent muscle, tendon and ligament strain and pain.
Hitting the trails
Don’t let an injury or other mishap wreck your trek through nature. Take some simple steps to stay safe on the trail.
- Pick a trail less traveled. Before you head out, have a plan B in in mind in case your first choice turns out to be a popular destination. If it looks like you can’t maintain a distance of 6 feet from other hikers on the trail or in the parking lot, find another route.
- Watch out for poison ivy. A whopping 85 percent of Americans are allergic to poison ivy. Know how to identify and avoid it before you go. If you do have a brush with the rash-inducing plant, use calamine lotion to soothe the itch and burn.
- Mind your ankles. Wear high-quality hiking boots with ankle support. If you do twist or sprain your ankle, immediately take your weight off and elevate the injured ankle. If possible, fashion a brace with materials you have on hand. If the ankle continues to swell, seek medical care at your nearby Indigo Urgent Care clinic to ensure the injury doesn't worsen and cause permanent damage.
- Keep blisters at bay. Wear shoes and socks that fit correctly, and avoid trekking with wet feet for extended periods of time. If you feel a blister forming, apply a layer of moleskin and athletic tape to keep it from tearing. When not properly treated, blisters can turn into infections that require immediate medical care.
Lacing up to run
They say all you need for running is a pair of shoes, but there’s more to keeping safe and healthy on the road, track or trail.
- Stick to safe routes. Even though you’re trying to avoid close contact with others, don’t put your safety at risk. Stay on well-traveled roads or trails, and avoid any remote shortcuts or poorly lit areas.
- Double your distance. When running, you’re exhaling a lot more respiratory droplets than someone out for a brisk walk or leisurely stroll. Consider doubling the 6 feet of social distancing to create a bigger barrier between you and others, and keep your eyes peeled for who and what’s ahead of you to avoid getting too close to others. Avoid narrow paths or trails that could put you face to face with another runner or walker.
- Wear the right shoes. The wrong fit can put you at risk for rolling an ankle and keep you off your feet for weeks. Shoes should fit snugly in the heel and leave a little room around the toes. Test them first at home before you hit the road.
- Stay flexible. A few simple stretching exercises before your run will keep your body limber and help prevent sprained or strained muscles. Consider adding yoga to your fitness routine to improve flexibility and balance, and create a calm and more focused state of mind.
Getting back on the green
The physical nature of a golf game and hours spent practicing and playing can translate to back pain, rotator cuff injuries and knee issues. Here a few ways to keep swinging.
- Focus on your form. Avoid undue stress and strain on muscles and joints. Use proper golf posture, ensure you’re using all your muscles when hitting and take care not to overswing. Golf lessons – regardless of your skills or level – are a great way to fine-tune your technique and avoid injury.
- Take 10 before you swing. Before a round, take 10 minutes to stretch hands, wrists, forearms and spine. Take a few warmup swings with your club, gradually increasing your range of motion.
- Properly lift and carry clubs. Bending over to pick up a golf bag can stress and strain the low back. Be mindful when lifting clubs out of the car trunk or carrying your bag. If you opt to walk the course and up your Fitbit steps, use a pushcart or golf bag with dual straps to evenly divide the weight across the back.
- Respect new rules. Courses are open for play, but things look a little different. For instance, you may not touch or remove flagsticks when you putt, and you should always keep social distance between you and other groups – at the tee, on the greens, and in the parking lot and pro shop.
Play it safe, and get safe care when you need it
If it’s been a while since you hit the road, the trail or a golf ball, be mindful. Ease in slowly and listen to your body to avoid injury. And if you’re not feeling well, stay home.
If you or a family member do experience a sprain, strain or other minor injury, visit your nearby Indigo Health clinic for a diagnosis and treatment plan. We’re open from 8 am to 8 pm every day, including weekends and holidays. Schedule an appointment online to save your spot, and learn more about the extra precautions we’re taking to keep you safe when you visit.