Preventing Injury During Outdoor Activities

By Dr. Tyler Steven Watters, RaleighOrthopaedic Clinic

From the scenic Appalachain Mountain trails to the sandy beaches of the Outer Banks, and every region in between, North Carolina is one of the best states in the country for hiking, biking, and other outdoor physical activities.

Hiking and biking are particularly great forms of exercise because they can be adapted to fit any age, lifestyle, or fitness level. Before starting your next adventure, it is important to ensure that you and your family are taking proper precautions to minimize the chance of injury.

When hiking, keep your pace slow and steady, and stick to moderate, relatively flat terrain. If you challenge your body too much from the get-go, you’re more likely to overstrain your muscles and joints. This is particularly important if you already have knee problems or arthritis. Once your body has adjusted over time, you can smoothly work your way up to steeper inclines and downgrades without putting too much stress on your body.

If you have a hip or knee condition, try using a walking stick to help offload pressure on your joints and maintain proper balance on uneven – and often unpredictable – terrain. Sturdy shoes and socks specifically made for hiking are also very important, as these provide substantial foot support and greatly decrease the chance of rolling your ankle.

If you’re looking for a little more speed, biking is one of the best exercises you can do. Regardless of whether your knee is healthy or arthritic, biking is recommended because it is high in cardiovascular intensity and low in impact on your joints. As with hiking, biking can be easily modified to fit your personal activity level. To help build your stamina at the beginning of the season, do a few workouts on a stationary bike at the gym. Once you’re ready to ride in the great outdoors, start slow on level terrain and gradually build your experience.

No matter your age or experience level, musculoskeletal injury is always a real possibility when engaging in any physical outdoor activity. The moment you start to feel pain in your joints, take a break and cool down. If the problem persists, make an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist to take a closer look. Otherwise, you might be stuck inside the rest of the summer – and no one wants that!  

 Dr. Tyler Steven Watters is an orthopaedic surgeon at Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic. He specializes in total joint and sports medicine. Visit raleighortho.com for more information.