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Older adult wellness: be safe in spring

Published: Thursday, April 10, 2014 11:22 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, April 10, 2014 11:49 a.m. CDT

Finally, winter is thawing and spring is arriving! After a long winter, people are anxious to venture outside, complete projects around the house and delve into spring cleaning. Before you rush into your to-do list, take a minute to make sure you are being safe about your emergence from winter.

Often, winter is a down time for older adults. Wisely, retirees choose to stay close to and in their homes during the months of snow and ice. Though it is a smart decision at the time, the inactivity over the winter can cause safety issues once spring arrives.

Before you head out for the walks you’ve been missing during the colder months, evaluate your readiness. Have you maintained your activity routine throughout the winter? If not, take time to gradually increase to where you left off last fall. Jumping straight to your walking mileage from five months ago without building up can easily lead to injury.

In terms of length of time to exercise, start with half the time you ended with last fall. For example, if you were up to 70 minutes of walking before you stored away your sneakers, begin this spring with 35 minutes. Always be ready and willing to adjust your intensity based on how your body is feeling.

Not only should you progressively add exercise back to your routine, but you should be aware of other physical activities that could take a toll on joints and muscles. Are you anxious to get out and garden? While it may be tempting to spend the afternoon digging in the dirt on a beautiful day, your body may tell you that it was too much too soon with muscular soreness and joint pain the next day. Rather than trying to get everything done in one session, break up your yard work into smaller segments, taking breaks often for stretching, water, and sunscreen.

Aside from gardening and exercising outside, another common way to welcome spring is with some deep cleaning and house projects. Whether it’s cleaning out the gutters or moving boxes and furniture, the fresh air can give a sense of renewed energy making us anxious to complete projects.

Before you climb up the ladder alone or start to rearrange the living room on a quiet afternoon, instate a buddy rule for yourself. Make sure either someone else is in the house or call a friend to tell them what you are planning to do. Tell them that you will call them back when you are finished and ask that if they don’t hear from you, they simply check in. If you were to be injured, you can be assured that someone will be checking on you.

Another part of the warmer months is outdoor events such as sporting events of a grandchild or festivals in the parks. These types of events can be accidents in hiding if you are not aware of your surroundings and abilities.

Grab your lawn chair before heading to the baseball diamond to watch a game rather than climbing up the bleachers like you maybe could have 20 years ago. To avoid ankle sprains or even falls check for a smooth, hard surface path before trekking across the uneven lawn at your favorite art or music festival.

Whatever way you are looking forward to getting active this spring, take a moment to consider safety first in all of your endeavors. Full of energy as you emerge from the winter months, it is tempting to do as much as you can all at once. Often times though our bodies don’t tell us we overdid it until the next day. Suffering from setbacks due to overexertion can be disheartening. So, as you prepare to jump back into your warmer weather routine, put your ego in check and be smart about how you maneuver through the spring months.

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