Walk safely to avoid hazards and pain

First Posted: 9/24/2013

With the change to more favorable weather, the number of dog walkers and fitness walkers has increased tremendously. With more folks opting for the two-legged variety of exercise, there is more risk of being injured by a vehicle, a dog or an unseen tripping hazard.

Last week my daughter Kayla called me from school upset about a near brush she had with a school bus. On her way to the gym, she was crossing an intersection when a school bus turned right, nearly taking her out with the side mirror. Despite her having the right of way, the bus driver did not see her. After she ranted a few moments, I took that opportunity to list all the responsibilities she has for her own safety when walking or jogging the streets of Greensboro.

In honor of Kayla and her brush with Guilford County School bus number 1530, let’s look at walking safety:

— The brighter, the better: When walking, bright clothing is best. Wearing yellow, green or orange will make you stand out to drivers. If those are not your colors of choice, invest in a light-weight orange safety vest. Just make sure your friends and neighbors don’t mistake you for part of a prison work detail.

— Flashlights at night: When walking at night, carry a small flashlight. This will help you be seen and will illuminate your way so you can avoid tripping hazards.

— Make sure you are “sidewalking:” Plan your route only on roads with sidewalks. If you have to walk on a sidewalk-free road, face the traffic and get over in the grass to let cars pass.

— Keep music to a minimum: All of us like to walk or run to music, which is great, but not so great if you can’t hear anything but the music. Keep iPod volumes down or keep one headphone out of your ear so you can hear traffic noise.

— Dog-gone dogs: Dogs are not all bad, but even if they are just uber-friendly and jump on you, they can potentially cause problems. Keep an eye out for unleashed dogs that may be in your path. If one comes at you shout “No” forcefully and most will stop. If that does not work, keeping a small can of mace handy can be a last resort if a dog gets aggressive. The best advice is to plan your route away from houses you know have sketchy dogs.

— Turn off the cell phone: Cell phones are another distraction you don’t need during your walks. Keep it with you for safety but don’t text, talk, tweet or post to Facebook until you are finished. Besides distracting you from hazards, it is really tough to get a good pace going while fussing with your phone.

If you follow these simple steps, you should be able to complete your walk in relative safety. If indoor walking is more your speed, Southeastern Health has a cool walk planned in celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. On Oct. 23, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., walkers are invited to walk in Biggs Park Mall to show their support for breast cancer survivors. For more information, call 910-272-1177.

Kathy Hansen has over 25 years of experience in the health and fitness field and swears that if you pass by her house in Amberdale that her dog Tia is only barking at you for encouragement. She can be reached via e-mail at hansen02@srmc.org.