The weather is heating up and there's no better time to explore the health benefits of outdoor activities than now. Grab those fishing poles and dust off that climbing gear because we're about to explore recreational safety.

People who spend just 120 minutes outdoors a week experience better health and well-being than those who don't, according to research published in Nature. Whether you enjoy swimming, hiking, camping, fishing, biking or another fun outdoor activity, the best way to reap the mental and physical benefits is to do it safely.

Planning your activities properly

Lace up your hiking boots, check the brakes on your bike and follow the below tips to make sure you are following the best practices to keep you and the environment around you safe while enjoying your favorite recreational activities:

1. Make a plan

Know before you go. Map out your travel plans to and from the location you are traveling to, set a determined amount of time that you expect to be there, do research about the area you are going and make a list of everything you need to pack.

Even if you are just headed out to the lake for a casual swim, it's important to do a quick search about where you plan on swimming to determine if the conditions are safe and of any necessary precautions you need to take before heading out. In order to be safe, even the simplest recreational activities require a little bit of planning. It's better to be over-prepared than to end up in a dangerous situation with no backup plan.

2. Maintain communication

Tell a trusted friend or family member where you are going and how long you plan to be there. If you become unresponsive or your family notices you're not home when you said you would be, they can notify the necessary people to get you to safety.

Maintaining proper communication with the people you are adventuring with is an important factor to being responsible and staying safe during your chosen activity. If you happen to get separated from your hiking buddy, have a plan in place to get in contact with them – utilize tools such as walkie-talkies since phone service might be sketchy in some remote areas. Someone should know where you are at all times, so they can send help your way if needed.

3. Prepare for unexpected events

Twisting an ankle on a nature walk, batteries dying in a flashlight, slicing open your hand on a can opener – you never know what to expect when out in nature, but you can always be prepared. Consider taking strategic steps to ensure you are safe even if something misfortunate occurs such as getting lost in the forest or stung by a bee.

Do research about your planned activity and the area you will be traveling. Try and determine the most common necessities people need for these activities – a first-aid kit when mountain biking, a handheld compass while trekking through the woods, extra water in case you are gone longer than anticipated. Research common plants and animals in the area you are adventuring so that you are environmentally aware. We've all heard the phrase, "Red touches yellow, kill a fellow. Red touches black, friend to Jack." While this may be a fun rhyme about snakes, it could potentially save your life.

4. Monitor the weather

While weather can be one of the most unpredictable factors for recreational activities, it doesn't hurt to try and plan around it. Check the weather from the week before your planned activity all the way up to the start to ensure you can grab any additional supplies you might need.

While rain can add a bit of fun to some activities, it can make others, like rock climbing, extremely dangerous. It's important to do research about your activity and make a plan of action in case bad weather gets in the way. Know what to do when unexpected weather arrives. If you plan on boating, it's important to be able to determine slight changes in the weather and have an escape plan prepared. Know who to call in emergency situations and how to get a hold of them.

5. Be mindful of the environment

The world is a beautiful place and we are lucky enough to get to experience its wonders. It's imperative that we leave the environment as we found it. Knowing what to do with your trash, contacting the right people if you notice something off like smoke in the forest and learning what to do if approached by different animals are just a few ways to be mindful of the environment.

The National Park Service recommends following the seven "Leave No Trace" principles:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  3. Dispose of waste properly
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimize campfire impacts
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Be considerate of other visitors

Be adventurous, but adventure safely

Whether it's hiking, fly fishing or any other kind of family fun, embarking on an outdoor adventure offers thrilling experiences, but it's essential to be mindful of the inherent risks. By adhering to the safety guidelines provided, you can ensure that your outdoor activities are not only successful but also safe and enjoyable.