The unexpected risks of exercise

Exercise: its benefits are rightly touted but there are certain associated risks that tend not to be mentioned by many.

Aside from the usual injuries that can happen in any sport, such as pulled muscles, there are other – somewhat unexpected – ways you could be hurt while getting active.

Lockdown activity levels

During lockdown, many of us used the new spare time we had and the wonderful weather to get into new activities. Cycling and running proved exceptionally popular as they are relatively low cost and solitary activities.

According to the Sport England Active Lives survey, walking, cycling and outdoor running all saw increases between mid-March and mid-May.

Meanwhile, fitness tracking app Strava found that across the globe, 33% more activities were uploaded in 2020 than the previous year. It also found that in the UK, “outdoor activity levels outpaced expected growth by 82% between March and May”.

However, now we’ve entered winter, what threats might amateur athletes face?

Environmental risks

Although running and walking are non-contact activities – and low-impact in the case of the latter – the risk of slipping on poorly maintained grounds is not insignificant. In the winter, you face the double threat of more slippery ground and lower light levels.

Leaves having fallen from the trees in the autumn tend to have collected in certain spots on roads and pavements, decomposing together and creating a slippery surface for pedestrians. Rain, snow and ice can also pose a threat to anyone walking or running on the roads.

Meanwhile, with some days only seeing around eight hours of daylight in winter, vision can easily be impaired for those getting out active outdoors. Combined with the hazards presented by the weather, suffering from a fall becomes a much higher possibility.

In addition, despite lockdown reducing road traffic, cars are still at more than 80% of levels seen on equivalent days in previous years, while light commercial vehicles are at more than 90%. So there is the added risk of motorists not seeing pedestrians during these reduced hours of daylight, resulting in an accident.

Other threats

If you’re spending more time outdoors, you might well come across other pedestrians’ canine companions. And they might not take too kindly to you, particularly if they’re startled, which could cause them to lash out and bite.

But if you are bitten by a dog while out exercising, you have the right to pursue legal action against the owner. So try to remember to get their contact details if this happens, despite the shock you might be experiencing.

It isn’t just runners and walkers who are at risk when getting active. Cyclists are also at risk of weather-related incidents, as well as potential problems with their bikes. Faults with your bike – whether through manufacturer error or someone else’s interference – could mean crashes and injuries.

Meanwhile, most cycling accidents involve other vehicles, so even though there might be fewer bikes out on the roads in the colder months, those on them are still at higher risk.

So with these factors all contributing to a rise in risk levels, people trying to maintain their fitness levels should exercise extra caution when venturing outdoors.

Image copyright: baranq