Getting back outdoors following an injury or illness

Patient & Caregiver Resources Patient safety
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If you find yourself craving fresh air and serene views after an illness or injury, a return to the great outdoors can be closer than you think with proper planning and preparation.

The tips below from Encompass Health therapists can help you safely explore the wonder of the outdoors.

Getting started

Prior to starting any new fitness routine, it is important to make sure that you consult your healthcare provider. It is important to obtain clearance from your physician before resuming these types of activities following an injury or illness. A physical therapist can help tailor an individualized program to help you reach your goals. It is important to set goals that are measurable and obtainable. Create short term goals that will eventually build up to your final goal. When beginning to train, start with shorter distances and easy environments/terrain. Make sure to build up your endurance and strength in order to optimize success for your ultimate goal. Utilize the appropriate assistive device(s) that will improve your safety and ability to participate, such as hiking poles, cane, walker and appropriate bracing. If you have not used these devices previously, make sure to train with them under the guidance of a physical therapist. Begin on level surfaces and in a safe environment when beginning to use them.

Plan ahead

Once you have trained and prepared for your final goal, it is important to plan for success. It may be beneficial to utilize phone apps or GPS to set your route and research mileage, challenge level and terrain. Make sure you have the proper footwear and that you have worn in your shoes/boots. Keep cool by bringing water and using a cooling scarf, towel or vest. Protect yourself from the sun by using sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. Layering lightweight and moisture wicking clothing will help you maintain a comfortable temperature during your activity. Backpack-style water containers are beneficial and allow you to stay hydrated and be hands-free while completing your activity, and be sure to bring a snack to replenish calories burned. Lastly, share your goals with your family and friends to see if anyone would like to join you on your fitness journey.


During your activity, it is important to move at your own comfortable pace to avoid fatiguing too quickly. Take regular rest breaks to conserve your energy, hydrate and replenish calories. Be sure to monitor how you’re feeling and listen to your body. It is okay to rest frequently or shorten your trip or activity time to make sure you can return home safely. The outdoors will always be there for you to enjoy on a different day.

Bring a buddy

Enjoying the outdoors with friends or family is a great way to socialize, but it also increases your safety significantly. A buddy can help you split the weight of water, food or equipment to lighten your load. Buddies can help encourage each other and help monitor each other for possible signs of fatigue, potential injury or safety hazards. A companion can also aid in getting help in case of an injury or a sudden change in health status.

Have fun!

Gina Amadio, OTR-L; Ryan Mueller, PT, DPT; Maria Rundell, PT, DPT, NCS, MSCS; and Sarah Schmiedl PT, DPT are therapists at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Colorado Springs.

The content of this site is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical conditions or treatments.