Don’t let winter keep you from your daily exercise in the fresh air. Whether you are planning a hike on snowy trails, a walk around the neighborhood, or simply trying to make it safely to where your car is parked, with a few safety precautions you can be on your way. Although walking can be treacherous on snow and ice, these tips will help keep you upright, outdoors, and enjoying the pristine splendor of newly fallen snow:
- Wear proper footwear. It may be tempting to slip on your tennis shoes just to check the mail, but don’t do it. There could be ice under that crunchy snow. Wear sturdy boots that will keep you dry. Make sure they have ankle support, slip resistant soles with good traction, and a warm lining. Avoid heeled boots. For winter hiking and sports, make sure your footwear and equipment are in good shape.
- Invest in traction cleats. This inexpensive addition to your existing footwear is easy to use and will keep you from slipping, even on black ice. Pick a pair of waterproof boots that can be easily tied or slipped on, attach traction cleats, and keep them readily accessible near the front door. This will help you keep up a nice routine of daily walks while avoiding falls.
- Stay on designated paths and trails. They are usually kept clear and have few surprises. Tall grasses can look like solid snow-covered ground, but you’ll break through if you try to cross-country ski over them. Pockets of air in snowbanks can collapse under your feet, too, so no shortcuts on your walks!
- Bundle up. A bulky coat and layers will not only keep you warm, but can help cushion a fall. Don’t forget hat and gloves! In the time it takes to pick up your paper at the end of the drive, some wind chill levels can seriously hurt your skin and extremities.
- Keep your hands free. You’ll need your hands to better your balance, grasp handrails, ski poles, or your car door for support, and to help break a fall.
- Walk like a penguin. Take careful, short, shuffling steps on ice with toes pointed slightly out. This also helps your center of gravity and provides extra stability on slippery surfaces.
- Relax and take care. The fresh, crisp cold of our snowy winters are an attractive benefit of living in the beautiful Northeast. Walk cautiously, but keep your muscles relaxed and enjoy it.
“With a good coat, gloves, hat, warm layers, a face guard and traction cleats, your walking should continue all winter long,” says James Kelley, MD, Saratoga Hospital Medical Group – Sports Medicine. “It’s good for our well-being to be out getting fresh air and moving around. With the right gear, every weather condition has a work-around to get you outdoors.”
The National Safety Council offers additional winter safety tips here. Also, check out these great winter hikes and hiking safety tips recommended from New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Want to learn more about injury prevention in sports and everyday life? Visit Saratoga Hospital Medical Group – Sports Medicine.