Everyone enjoys a walk outside — whether for shopping, just to go feed the ducks, or to watch a sunset. Many of us who live in the West End of Vancouver, British Columbia, prefer to walk than to drive a car, ride a bicycle, or strap on roller blades.
As we age, unfortunately, walking becomes a bit more problematic. Our vision, hearing, and balance are not as good as when we were younger. We usually walk a little more slowly. As well, there are more people, cyclists, and cars on the sidewalks and roads than ever before, particularly during the months when cruise ships come to Vancouver.
Seniors are more nervous about falling than younger people. It makes sense to pay attention to where we are walking, and it doesn't hurt to remind ourselves occasionally of some basic safety rules.
Safety Rules for Walking at any time of the Year
Here are some general walking tips for your shopping trip or leisurely walk during any time of the year:
- Check the weather forecast and dress appropriately. If you can, dress in layers — a sweater can come on if it's colder than you expect, or you can take it off if it gets too warm.
- If possible, choose a familiar route.
- Choose a path that is flat and relatively free of obstacles whenever possible; this will put less strain on your joints and feet.
- Wear supportive, low-heeled footwear, preferably with non-skid soles.
- Take your time — rushing increases your risk of falling.
- If using a cane or walker, ensure that it is fitted for your height.
- Watch what is ahead of you.
- Be alert to your surroundings, especially if there are many pedestrians, bicycles, and cars nearby.
- Walk where pedestrians should walk — on the sidewalk, in the crosswalk.
- Have a plan: where are you going, what do you need to take with you, how long will you be gone.
- If you have allergies or respiratory issues, check the air quality for the pollen count or pollutants, respectively.
- Avoid carrying many items: use a backpack or a purse that will hang over your shoulder. Shopping carts are also helpful.
- Stop or take a break if you feel pain during your walk. (I had a friend who knew where every single park bench was located between her apartment and her destination. She would walk in the direction where she knew she could rest on a bench.)
- Carry a cell phone in case of emergencies.
- Finally, consult your doctor if pain continues after your walk.
Safety Rules for Walking in the Spring and Summer
Here are a few tips to remember when setting out on a shopping trip or a leisurely walk during the spring and summer months:
- Wear a hat or walk where it is shady.
- Avoid direct sunlight for more than ten minutes.
- Cover your skin with light clothing, as much as possible, to protect yourself from the sun.
- Use sunscreen if you know your skin is going to be exposed to direct sunlight for more than 30 minutes. (Put it on before you leave.)
- Take a water bottle with you.
Safety Rules for Walking in the Fall and Winter
Here are few tips to remember when setting out on a shopping trip or a leisurely walk during the fall and winter months:
- Be extra careful of the surface you are walking on — sidewalks and paths can be slippery.
- Walk like a penguin when on icy steets: keep steps close together, arms out to the side just slightly for balance.
- Choose sidewalks and paths which have been shovelled and/or salted whenever possible.
- Wear warm outdoor clothing (hat, gloves or mittens, jacket or coat, boots): cold weather can cause numbness and make it difficult for you to feel any pain or an injury.
- Avoid going out during or immediately after a big storm; wait for streets and sidewalks to be cleared.
What if it is too far to walk?
Whenever possible, it's good for you to walk. But if your destination is too far for walking, then simply choose a bus or skytrain that will take you to your destination — or close to your destination.
Walk part of the way, getting off the bus early, or walking a few extra blocks before you catch a bus.
Walking is a good form of exercise for everyone and anyone. If you also attend fitness class, you will be a stronger walker.
You may also like to read:
- Protecting Yourself at Home: Getting Help when Needed
- Skipping Fitness Activities: What Happens when you Don't Exercise?
- Fitness Principles
I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.