Question: I’m a retiree recovering from knee surgery, and the warmer weather is giving me spring fever. I’d like to start walking outdoors but feel a little uneasy about it. Do you have any advice?
Answer: Of course, the bright sun, flowers blooming, and trees budding inspire us all to take advantage of this very welcome season and get outside. But first you should check with your physician to be sure walking is an appropriate form of exercise for you at this time.
Experts at Hebrew Senior Life suggest people with mobility issues observe these precautions before beginning to walk outside:
Walk according to your capabilities. Find a place and pace that’s right for you and set limits about what you plan to do.
Make sure you know the walking conditions ahead: Are there any steep hills? Are benches and restrooms available? Is shade plentiful in case the day turns hot? Many parks provide wheelchair-accessible trails that feature wide paths with smooth pavement.
Wear layers of comfortable clothing, including well-fitting shoes that offer support for both your arches and ankles.
Bring along a container of water and any medications you may need while you are walking.
Carry a cellphone in case you have an emergency.
Some countries encourage a practice called “forest bathing”–mindfully enjoying nature while being fully attentive to your surroundings. The practice began in Japan during the 1980s to counter the burnout caused by excessive exposure to technology and this was long before cellphones, social media, and a 24-hour-news cycle made stress all the more pervasive.
Researchers confirm what most of us realize already, that time spent in nature is good for us. Spending time in nature boosts your cognitive functionality and improves your mood, mental health, and emotional well-being. Just feeling connected to nature can provide similar benefits, even spending a limited time outdoors. The very sounds of nature can soothe us.
In Lawrence, we are fortunate to have access to natural spaces. The Spicket River Greenway is a great place to enjoy the beauty of spring and the sound of flowing water. Den Rock Park is an ideal setting to “forest bathe.” It contains woods, wetlands, granite outcroppings, and a tree listed on the Massachusetts rare plant watch list, the river birch.
We have many months of ideal walking weather ahead. I wish you the best of luck in recovering from your surgery and getting out and about.