Spending time outdoors is good for the mind and the body. Researchers have studied the effects that spending time outdoors, particularly in wooded areas, has on well-being. A 2021 meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health concluded that forest-based interventions have a beneficial, therapeutic effect on stress, mental health disorders, hypertension, and immune system function. In their excitement to engage in outdoor activities, nature lovers should not forget to heed safety precautions. That means recognizing the potential for safety hazards outdoors and how to react in potentially difficult situations.
Weather patterns can change rapidly. Always check multiple weather sources for your destination before heading out. Layer clothing accordingly for the weather in your destination, and have a plan in case a storm blows in. If stuck outdoors in a thunderstorm with lightning, find a low spot with a ditch or a depression, suggests AccuWeather. Keep in mind that tents and pavilions provide inadequate shelter and are nearly as risky as standing under a tall tree, advises the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
No one wants to get hurt while enjoying the great outdoors, but injuries happen. Always carry safety gear. Pack a first aid kit with the basics and items geared toward your adventure. For example, a life jacket is essential when boating or spending time on the water. When hiking, you may need to stabilize a twisted ankle or a broken limb from a fall, so carry a splint on challenging hikes. Bringing a buddy along also is a safety measure. That way, they can seek help if you are injured, and vice versa.
The lay of the land can be hazardous. Outdoor enthusiasts should be aware of their surroundings, including sheer cliff edges, steep climbs, loose rocks, deep waters, and more. CoolHikingGear.com warns that any river above ankle height has the potential to sweep a person off their feet if the current is moving. Avoid crossing rivers and know the terrain ahead of time to plan safely.
People are not the only animals who enjoy the great outdoors. Encountering wildlife is common when venturing into their habitats. Some animals even travel into residential neighbourhoods in search of food. Many animals prefer to run off rather than engage with humans. But they also can be surprised by people or pets in nature. Travelling in groups; making noise not to surprise animals, keeping pets close by and avoiding hiking at dawn and dusk when many animals are most active can reduce the risk of potentially dangerous encounters. Also, be aware of wildlife birthing seasons, as a mother may be overly protective if you stumble across her young.