Winter is just around the corner. The frigid temperatures can be more than uncomfortable. Cold air can also be a danger to your health, especially when it's accompanied by precipitation that can cause you to fall. Even the slightest amount of snow or ice can make the sidewalks, parking lots, and driveways treacherous.
In 2017, slips and falls were the most common cause of injuries in Canada, according to a report published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Every day, more than 1,800 Canadians are sent to the hospital because of falls. The average length of a hospital stay for a fall is just over 14 days compared to 7.5 days for other medical reasons. Injuries from slips range from broken ankles to serious head injuries and even death. In January of last year, a 60-year-old Calgary man died after falling on an icy sidewalk and sustaining a head injury.
Although falls are the most common amongst older people, anyone can suffer a fall. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to reduce the likelihood of a fall. Here are some ways to keep your balance on snow, sleet, and ice.
During the wintertime, leave for work a couple of minutes early so that you won’t be rushing over slick surfaces. Maintaining a brisk pace during wintry conditions can increase the chance of falling. When you walk slower, you’ll be able to react to changes in traction a lot quicker. So, slow down and take deliberate, short steps over the ice and snow. Avoid shortcuts across the ice. When the weather is bad, don’t run across the street to beat traffic or try to catch a departing bus by running after it. If you do find yourself rushing often, at least choose shoes with an anti-slip shoe grip.
Many falls are the result of simply not paying attention. One of the easiest ways to avoid falling during winter is to pay attention to where you are walking. Look at the sidewalk in front of you. Don’t get distracted with a cell phone while walking on snow or ice. Be aware of the fact that you could quickly slip on a concealed patch of black ice. Walk consciously and wear ice cleats for boots.
When it comes to preventing slips and falls during icy weather, the first thing that you should start with is your shoes. High heels and smooth soles provide little traction on snow and ice. These shoes should not be worn on slippery surfaces. Even proper winter boots often lack grip. Researchers from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute recently researched how well winter boots sold in Canada prevent falls on ice and snow. Only nine out of 98 different models of boots passed the test. So extra care should be taken when selecting your next pair of boots since the majority of winter boots sold online or through retailers will not provide sufficient grip on snow and ice.
What kind of shoes should you wear in snow and ice? A pair of good ice cleats or crampons are a MUST when it comes to getting traction walking during icy and snowy conditions. We suggest choosing a pair that are designed for everyday use like the ICETRAX Tungsten Grip Pro traction aids – they fit most types of footwear for both men and women, and don’t fall off easily. Plus, the reflective heel makes ICETRAX ice cleats perfect for nighttime use.
Strength training can help keep nasty slips at bay. Exercise is a proven way to prevent falls. Stronger muscles help keep us upright and reduce the likelihood of slips and fall accidents. Strong, large muscles can buffer the impact of a fall and help prevent your joints and bones from cracking.
So, make sure you hit the gym regularly and include strength training in your routine. What exercises are best? Try lunges and squats. These exercises work the glutes, quads, and hamstrings — muscles that you will need to stabilize yourself with if you fall. When these muscles are stronger, it makes it much easier for you to catch yourself before a fall.
Be aware of what surfaces are likely to be slick. Remember that ice can hide under slush or snow. Black ice is especially dangerous — it can cause you to quickly fall without any warning at all. This kind of ice is more compact than normal ice. It is also very smooth and clear. Black ice can is most likely to be found early in the mornings, in shady areas. That is because the sun shines during the day and melts the snow; then it refreezes at night resulting in a clear patch of ice. Black ice is most dangerous when water is present as this makes it very slippery. So, in the mornings, keep an eye out for black ice. Avoid areas where there is standing water and always wear shoes specially designed for winter conditions, such as ice cleats.
Yoga can improve balance and coordination — both of which help prevent falls. Being flexible can help keep you upright if you begin to slip on the ice. A recent study found that basic yoga poses help enhance flexibility and increase confidence in walking and balance in older women. Yoga can not only help reduce the likelihood of falling on ice and snow — but, it can also make you feel less anxious about walking on these surfaces.
Even if you don’t fall, you could pull a muscle in your legs or back if you lose your balance and tense up. Being flexible will help reduce the likelihood of an injury. Flexibility combined with ice grippers for shoes can go a long way towards preventing winter slips.
To sum things up, the best way to avoid falls this winter is to stay in shape, pay attention, take it slow, and use ice cleats for shoes.