JOHNSON CITY - As the weather turns and daylight sticks around a while longer, many people take to the outdoors for their daily exercise.
While walking around the block or jogging through a nearby park offers great health benefits, those kinds of activities pose some safety risks.
Members of the Johnson City Police Department are reminding residents to use caution when taking to the outdoors and follow a few easy steps to stay safe.
Before leaving, always let someone know your intended path and how long you plan to be gone, authorities said.
"If you're overdue, it's good to have somebody, preferably a family member, that will follow up on it," said JCPD Community Relations Officer Terry Hardin. "You don't have to do anything extravagant. Just call a friend or someone and tell them you're going to be back in an hour and if they don't hear from you, to come find you."
Varying the time you exercise and the route you take can also help keep you safe, authorities said.
"Changing your route makes you less predictable. We're bad at setting patterns in our lives and that gives somebody the edge," Hardin said. "You don't have to have 20 different routes, but might have two or three. Run one for a couple of days, then change it up."
Authorities remind people that exercising outside is much different from burning calories in the gym. In fact, some of the typical practices used at the gym could prove harmful if used outdoors.
For instance, listening to your favorite tunes while exercising might be OK on the treadmill, but authorities suggest leaving the headphones at home when hitting the pavement.
"In those situations, we rely mostly on our hearing and our sight," Hardin said. "Headphones take away one of those senses. If you're not listening, you've given them the advantage - and not just an attacker, but traffic too.
"If you've got headphones on, you can't hear that speeding car or those squealing tires."
For those who choose to wait until dusk or dark to burn calories, authorities recommend exercising with friends and taking a cell phone along for the journey. Staying in well-lit areas and avoiding any short cuts through alleyways or other unpopulated areas will reduce your chances of becoming the victim of a crime, officers said.
Hardin believes outdoor activity is safe for the most part and said just being aware of potential dangers makes you that much safer.
"It's important to pay attention to what's going on. Don't get tunnel vision about what you're doing," Hardin said. "We're guilty of paying attention to just what's right there with us. We need to look up and see where we are headed and what is all around us."