Now that summer has officially arrived, the desire to go out is increased tenfold! For many of us, our activity levels skyrocket because it feels so good to be outside, the warm sun on our skin, after a long cold winter. There are so many different types of summer activities to participate in; from gardening to waterskiing, how boring could one be on a long summer day when the sun doesn’t set until 9pm. However, a sudden increase in activity can lead to overuse injuries and is common in the shoulders, knees, hips and ankles. These joints are used a lot more during the summer months, and we tend to experience more pain and discomfort than normal because the summer season is so short.
Tips to prevent overuse injuries:
- take it easy. If you weren’t very physically active during the cold months, don’t expect to come back strong. Doing too much too soon can lead to serious injury. Easily resume your favorite summer activities, be sure to take breaks throughout the day and rest days in between. As you become more conditioned, then you can increase your participation.
- Warm up properly. Cold muscles can lead to unnecessary injury. So before hitting the baseball field, pickleball court, or paddling around the lake, take some time to warm up. A few light dynamic stretches like squats, lunges, or twists will prepare you for the movement. Starting with a good warm-up is a great way to start any activity, even something as simple as gardening, because it gets your body moving.
- Be aware of your body mechanics/shape. Do your best to position yourself appropriately during your summer activities, whether it’s more intensive activities like road biking or simpler activities like gardening. Proper technique or posture decreases your risk of developing aches and pains. It also allows you to move efficiently and increase your performance.
- Activity planning regarding time of day. Your body can generate 15 to 20 times the amount of heat it normally would when engaging in intense physical activity. It is not recommended to exercise during the hottest part of the day. UV and temperature are at their peak, which means you’re more likely to lose fluids faster, tire faster, and burn more easily. Ideally, activities should be planned for earlier in the morning (5am-8am) or evening (6pm-8pm), when the sun is low in the sky and temperatures drop.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated is more important than ever on those hot summer days. We lose more water through sweat during summer exercise, and dehydrated muscles don’t work as efficiently as hydrated muscles. Staying hydrated helps the heart pump blood more easily to working muscles and also improves muscle efficiency. Staying hydrated will keep your energy levels stable and your immune system strong, preventing the fatigue that leads to missteps and injuries. Stay hydrated before, during and after exercise to help prevent dehydration and help you perform at your best this summer.
- Stretch. Whether you’re gardening, running, golfing, hiking or biking this summer, the right stretching program can put you on the path to better performance and injury prevention. Stretching helps reduce muscle soreness and lactic acid buildup and helps reduce the severity of your sore muscles in the days ahead. All you have to do is slowly bring your muscles up to a point where you feel slight resistance, but NO pain, and hold it for 30 to 1 minute. This lengthens and improves the flexibility of the muscles used.
- Prioritize rest. With longer days, a shorter season, and fun outdoor activities, a good rest may become lower on your list of priorities. In other words, during sleep, the body heals. During the summer months, you might engage in more (exhausting) outdoor activities with longer days. Unfortunately, sleep isn’t something you can catch up on later, so make sure you have enough Z.
Summer is the perfect time for outdoor activities. Remember to take it slow, listen to your body, and take the necessary precautions to stay safe. In the event of an injury, it is recommended that you see a physiotherapist or other medical professional for quick relief and to resolve the underlying issues causing the pain. Don’t let a sports or exercise injury hold you back this summer.
Stéphanie Bourbeau is a bilingual physiotherapist registered with the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario and the Canadian Physiotherapy Association who is committed to providing a practical and personalized approach to physiotherapy.
Stéphanie, originally from the community of Huntsville, developed a passion for health and wellness during her youth while competing in cross-country running, Nordic skiing and track and field. Stephanie has always had a strong caring nature and fell in love with the physiotherapy profession while volunteering at a physiotherapy clinic while in high school and college.
Stephanie pursued her passion for healthcare by attending McGill University and completing her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. During her Masters of Health Sciences in Physiotherapy, completed at the University of Ottawa, she completed rotations in orthopedic clinics, hospitals, home care and neurology centers.