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Winter Prevention Strategies

 

shovelling snow back pain winters Winter prevention

Courtesy of Physiotherapy Alberta

When the days start getting colder and shorter that can only mean one thing – winter is on the way. Unfortunately, with the arrival of winter, physiotherapists often see various injuries caused from winter sports and other winter-related activities. By using our winter prevention tips, you can ensure that you won’t have to sit out of your favourite activities this season.

Stay Active

For some, months of snow and cold mean hibernating in front of the TV. While it can be tempting, I should remind you that physical activity is an important part of any lifestyle and is instrumental in injury prevention.

  • Take a moment to consider the things you like about winter. Maybe it’s skating at a nearby rink, tobogganing with the kids, building snow forts or just enjoying the brilliant blue sky Albertans enjoy each January. Finding ways to be active outdoors that you actually enjoy will help to make the winter pass faster.
  • Invest in the gear. Being cold while trying to be active outside isn’t fun, and it’s not likely that you’re going to stick with your winter activity for long if you’re uncomfortable. Given that in Alberta winter lasts four months (or more), investing in the proper outerwear is a worthwhile investment to help keep you active.
  • Create goals and look for something to train for. While many people think that race season winds up in winter, myself included, John Stanton, the founder and CEO of the Running Room was quick to correct me. It turns out that while things do slowdown in winter, there are still plenty of races, like the Resolution Run and the Hypothermic Half Marathon to take part in. If running’s not your thing, there’s the Silver Skate Festival and the Birkebeiner Cross Country Ski Race. Preparing for any of these winter sporting events will keep you active outside throughout the season.
  • Too cold outside? Move your workout indoors. Does your local recreation centre have a racquetball court, indoor pool or offer other activities or classes? Really don’t want to go outside at all? Workout in your home – skip rope, do jumping jacks or dust off that under-used treadmill.

Change Your Mindset

If you are not a winter person and the idea of digging out the snow pants doesn’t thrill you, it may be time to find a new mindset. Whether we like it or not, winter is here and embracing the season may help you stay active and might help beat the “winter blues”. Changing your mindset may be easier said than done, but here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Not all winter days are cold and miserable. Sometimes it’s about being open to grab the great days when they come and get outside while the good weather (or at least, the better weather) lasts. Lucky for us, Alberta is one of the sunniest provinces in the country with 1,900 to 2,500 hours of bright sunshine per year.
  • Spending time outdoors during daylight hours and building exercise into the day has been shown to help those struggling with seasonal affective disorder and depression.
  • Try out a new winter activity! Signing up for a class helps people stick with an exercise program, so why not try your hand at speed skating, cross-country skiing or snow-shoeing lessons? Better yet, sign up with a friend or relative and make getting active outside a social event as well.

Winter Prevention: Minimize Slips and Falls

  • During winter, many physiotherapists see patients for injuries that occurred during a fall due to winter conditions. Stay upright and prevent falls with the following tips:
  • Check those treads! Just like the tires on your car, when the treads on your shoes or boots are smooth and worn down they won’t offer much grip on ice and snow, making you more prone to falls. Check your footwear at the start of the season and keep an eye out for when it’s time to invest in some new footwear with rubber soles and non-slip treads. You might also consider buying spikes or coils that you put over your shoes that will help you to stick to ice and snow  (just be careful, while spikes will help you to avoid a fall on ice, they can be quite slippery on some types of flooring).
  • What about those icy sidewalks? You may remember hearing about the penguin shuffle campaign in recent years. Fact is, walking like a penguin by shuffling or keeping your feet close to the ground, maximizing the contact between your shoes and the sidewalk helps to keep you balanced and on your feet!
  • A fall can be detrimental to a senior. While falls prevention is important for seniors all year round, it’s even more important on slippery sidewalks and streets. For more information, visit Finding Balance.

Practice Safe Winter Driving

Every year we hear about a huge spike in collisions with the first big snow fall and a rise in whiplash injuries to go along with those collisions. When it comes to driving in the winter, listen to the experts: leave enough room between cars, don’t speed, raise your head rest and consider winter tires.

Use Proper Form When Shoveling

Keeping your sidewalks and driveways clear of snow and ice will help keep you on your feet. Just keep in mind that bigger isn’t always better, especially if it’s a bigger shovel full of snow that you are trying to move! Choose a smaller shovel and a manageable load to save your back. Remember that if you have to lift snow, use your knees not your back and take breaks. Shoveling snow is exercise, so like other types of exercise you should warm up and pace yourself like you do when you are at the gym.

Winter Prevention when Skiing

For many diehard skiers and snowboarders, hitting the slopes is the best part of the season (if not the year). Ensure you make the most of ski season by participating in pre-season conditioning, doing sport-specific exercise, checking your equipment and being knee safe. For more information on getting the most out of ski season talk to you physiotherapist.

We hope these winter prevention strategies will serve you well and help avoid unnecessary pain/injuries.

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