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Until recently, I had taken it for granted that I would spend the summer months engaging in my favorite outdoor activities. Each year as the snow gave way to the cool rains and warmer days of spring, I would begin planning kayaking, hiking and camping trips. My husband and I would choose the vegetables and herbs to plant in our backyard garden. Likewise, with adventure in mind, our summer vacation would be planned.

This year is different, though. Just as I was beginning to plan my outdoor summer adventures, I broke my hip, and I had to undergo hip replacement surgery.

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While I am still looking forward to summer, my expectations have changed.  Just as I was beginning to plan my outdoor summer adventures, I fell and broke my hip, and I had to undergo hip replacement surgery.  Following surgery, my everyday activities were impacted – as would be the case with any serious injury.  Driving, walking, work-related activities and of course, sports and leisure activities were all affected in some way.  I was able to resume some activities within days, but others will require several weeks of physical therapy before I can safely return to them and still others will have to be permanently suspended. 

After the surgery, rather than focusing on what I could not do or would not be able to do again which I knew would only lead to stress, frustration and possibly depression, I chose to focus on what I could do.  With that mindset, I am already engaging with the outdoors and planning my outdoor summertime activities.  Knowing that I will have limitations as my body heals, I have been exploring safe ways to return to my favorite outdoor activities and alternative activities for the pre-injury activities that have to be suspended temporarily or permanently.

Benefits of Reconnecting with the Outdoors

Being an outdoors person, I knew that exercise, fresh air, and sunshine help the healing process, both physically and mentally.  At first, all I could do was sit or stand for short periods of time on the front porch.  Even so, this had its benefits.  I could see the budding trees, hear the birds singing, and I could feel the spring breeze blowing.  I can’t explain in scientific terms how nature heals, but I know that it does.  Being outside eased the stress and feelings of depression.  There was a measurable difference in how I felt when I was outside compared to how I felt indoors.  Indoor exercise is fine, and there will be times during the healing process when the weather prevents you from going outside; however, I encourage you to get outdoors as soon as you are able.  Even if all you can do is sit outside, it will bring you relief and help your body heal.  In a matter of a days I was venturing down the sidewalk with my cane.  Now, just six weeks after surgery, I can walk a mile unassisted.  I’m certain nature has played a part in my recovery thus far and will continue to do so as I continue my healing journey. 

Safe Ways to Return to Outdoor Activities     

Following my hip replacement surgery, the doctor prescribed certain safety measures for me to follow so that I would not dislocate my hip while the muscles around the joint are strengthening.  For example, I am not supposed to bend my body past 90 degrees for 100 days post-surgery.  This restriction limits the activities I can engage in for the entire summer!  Rather than give up activities I enjoy, I am exploring ways to modify them.  For instance, gardening is one of my favorite summer pastimes.  However, the garden we usually plant is at ground level and would require me to bend my body beyond the 90 degree limit.  Therefore, this year we are using containers and raised beds so that I can accommodate my mobility issues and safely return to a pastime I love. 

Alternatives for Activities That Need to Be Suspended Permanently

Unfortunately, sometimes the injury suffered can prevent you from engaging in certain pre-injury activities.  According to my surgeon, high impact activities with the risk of falling should be permanently avoided.  These include any activities involving running, jumping, and repetitive high impact on the hip, like basketball, soccer, football, softball, snowboarding, and high-impact aerobics.  Fortunately for me, I don’t have many activities on the list.  However, for any activity on the list that I have to give up, I am going to replace it with another comparable activity.  Since running is no longer an option, I could replace it with cycling.  Both are aerobic exercises that I can enjoy in the outdoors, but cycling is low-impact and thus easier on the joints.  Plus, learning a new outdoor activity is an adventure in itself.  You meet new people, improve brain power as you acquire new information, and challenge yourself as you step outside your comfort zone. 

I’m not glad that I broke my hip, but by staying engaged in the outdoors and turning the challenges into opportunities, I have helped myself heal quicker.  My expectations for summer may actually be higher than before the injury.  Not only am I looking forward to enjoying my favorite outdoor pastimes, but I am also excited about learning new ones. 

If you’re anything like me, you’re ready to tackle the obstacles that are keeping you from all the outdoor activities you love.  I encourage you to do so and to share your healing journey with others.  Please keep in mind, though, that during the recovery phase it’s important to slowly ease back into your activities, accommodating each activity according to your strength, stability, mobility, flexibility and precautions.  Everyone’s recovery is unique and you should always follow your physician’s advice before returning to any outdoor activity.