Winter Walks? Tips to Prevent Falls & Injuries
Written by Teresa Isabel Dias
When winter hits, it’s important to know how to prevent falls and fractures on snow and ice so you can make the most of the season and still enjoy being in the great outdoors. Walking is very good for the heart, bones, and brain, however walking in snowy and icy conditions poses many risks and could lead to fractures or even concussions if you happen to fall.
In Toronto, Canada, between 2006 and 2015, there were almost 30,000 emergency department visits and 2,800 hospitalizations from falls on snow; injuries most often affected the knee and lower leg, head, and the elbow and forearm.
Keep in mind, if you fall from a standing position and break a bone you will be diagnosed with osteoporosis; as women, we want to avoid this diagnosis for as long as we can!
There are many factors that contribute to slipping, falling, and getting injured, including:
- Footwear: high heels and/or shoes that don’t fit well
- Type of surface you walk on: going down a hill, sleek driveways
- Type of footwear: lacking slip-resistant soles
- Biomechanics of your walk: muscle strength, posture, balance. It’s important to note that medications like sleeping pills, antihistamines, and cold and flu meds can affect balance.
- Illness: vertigo, dementia
- Unsafe behaviour: walking in the dark
- Temperature and snow or ice precipitation: freezing and thawing, black ice
The American Heart Association recommends that adults accumulate at least 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours, of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week. You need, should, and want to walk year-round, but it could be dangerous in snowy, icy conditions. What should you do?
Here are some tips to prevent falls and fractures on snow and ice:
- Wear boots or shoes that have good grip
- Wear ice cleats; take them off as soon as you walk indoors to prevent slipping
- Walk slowly, take small steps, with your feet pointed outwards
- Walk straight, don’t lean forward
- Keep your hands out of your pockets
- Don’t text or talk on your phone and walk at the same time
- Use handrails on stairs and ramps
- Don’t carry heavy things that can make you lose your balance; wear a backpack if needed
There are lots of physical activities you can choose from, should you decide that walking outdoors is a bit too precarious for you. Try jumping rope, dancing, stationary bike or treadmill, or at-home fitness and yoga lessons. Whatever you do, make it your goal to not isolate yourself at home. Try not to allow the winter blues to set in, and make sure you keeping moving in the safest way you can, all season long.
Teresa Isabel Dias is a RevolutionHer™ Business Member in Toronto, Ontario, and is the founder of MenopausED. As a pharmacist and Certified Menopause Practitioner, Teresa helps women 40+ navigate the menopause transition, induced menopause, and lifestyle changes to optimize healthy aging. She provides one-on-one consultations, in-person and online, workshops, discussion groups, and she helps organizations and businesses support female employees during the menopause transition with educational presentations in the workplace and education and training of managers and HR professionals—because besides affecting quality of life, menopause can also affect women’s work performance.