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Preventing Outdoor Falls in the Winter Months

Preventing Slips, Slides and Stumbles in the Winter Months

I run the risk of being way too late with this column, but you never know here in Maine…Mother Nature may just have a few more surprises in store for us before spring has sprung! So I am dedicating this column to safety during winter in Maine! It makes sense that most falls occur during the winter months here, with all of that lovely ice and snow to catch us off-guard. But here are my top 7 things we can do to keep ourselves on our feet and healthy throughout the winter season:

1. Most of us already use ice melt abundantly on our walk-ways and driveways, but how many times have you gone out to run an errand or out to visit a friend, only to find the parking lot or friend’s driveway a sheet of ice? Take an old tennis ball container, fill it with ice melt or salt, poke some large holes in the top, and keep it in a less-frequently-used cup holder within your car. Get into the habit of sprinkling some outside your car door before stepping out, and use as needed across the parking lot or driveway. This can be your own personal ice-defender!

2. Wear smart footwear with rubber soles that provide traction, and avoid heels or shoes with smooth soles. Remove boots, or dry feet thoroughly on a mat when entering your home – wet shoes/boots can cause slipping inside too.

3. Use common sense! Avoid rushing, visually scan your environment, and avoid obvious areas where snow has not been removed. Scan for areas in shadows, or not exposed to as much sun as others, and beware of shiny surfaces (black ice – yikes!) Focus on your footing! If you do not have your Yaktrax on (see #4 below), walk flat-footed  – this will be the ONLY time I will ever recommend shuffling as you walk!  Always step straight down from curbs and cars – not out – keeping your feet flat on the ground.

4. Purchase and wear YakTrax, or similar devices (these can be found locally at the LLBean outlet, or on Amazon.com) that can quickly and easily be put over your shoes to keep from slipping on the snow and ice. Though these must be taken off before going indoors – they can be slippery inside on smooth floors, and could chew up your wooden floors – they do an excellent job of keeping you on your feet safely when outdoors.

5. If you use a cane, purchase and use a pronged-ice-tip on the end of it during these slippery months. These can be attached to almost any cane, and have a “flip-up” feature to quickly and easily move them up and out of the way when not needed. They can be purchased online at Amazon.com.

6. If you don’t typically use a cane for walking, you can still gain the security of a device when walking outdoors during these slippery months. Pick up an inexpensive pair of ski poles, keeping one at your front door and one in your car to be used when the ground outside looks “iffy”. If you are a walking enthusiast, consider purchasing Nordic ski-walking poles for year-round use. Though these are a new trend here in the US, they have been used for decades in parts of Europe, adding stability and many other benefits to your walking program.

7. Keep up your fitness routine! Staying strong and healthy will do wonders for your balance reactions and can help prevent injuries if you do slip a bit. Move your program indoors if needed – begin or continue with a home exercise program if you are snowed-in, or if weather permits, engage in a local indoor class or mall-walking.

By doing these 7 simple things, you can feel safe and secure throughout the winter months, and be ready for that spring weather that is just around the corner!

As always, please email me at sonja@designingfitness.com with your health and fitness questions, or to let me know what you would like to learn more about in future columns!

In the meantime,

Be strong, stay active, LIVE life!