Walking (Not Falling) in a Winter Wonderland!
Happy Winter, everyone! As we’ve seen in recent weeks, the snowy season is upon us. This is a wonderful time of year to enjoy winter sports, building snowmen, and sledding. Unfortunately, with all of the wintery fun comes icy sidewalks, roads and driveways, which can lead us to slip if we’re not careful. Let’s not let the icy conditions get the best of us this year!
Sharpening your balance skills and improving awareness of your surroundings will help minimize your risk of falling this Winter.
Balance Training: Step 1
If balance isn’t one of your strengths right now, begin your balance training by practicing stationary exercises (static balance). Static balance exercises include standing with feet together, standing heel to toe, and standing on one leg. With each of these exercises, think about gently tightening your abdominal and buttock muscles. These muscles are important for maximizing our balance and stability. Additionally, practice looking straight ahead when performing each of these exercises-don’t look down at your feet the entire time!
Balance Training: Step 2
Once the static exercises become easier, it is important to progress to more movement based balance exercises (dynamic balance). It is important to improve your dynamic balance because we are often walking, not just standing, when ice surprises us. We need to be able to quickly regain our balance when this happens! Dynamic balance exercises include walking with head turns as well as heel to toe walking. As with the static balance exercises, focus on gently tightening your abdominal and buttock muscles to maximize the control and stability of your movement.
SAFETY POINT: When doing these exercises, be sure to stand near a counter or wall in order to quickly catch yourself if you lose balance. Another option is to hold onto hiking poles while performing each exercise. Safety first!
Observe your surroundings:
While these balance exercises will help you improve your stability when you have a run-in with ice, it’s also important to minimize your chances of walking on ice by improving your awareness of your surroundings. Try to look ahead of you when you walk in order to scan for obstacles or icy areas. It’s easy to get distracted while walking and not see the icy patches lurking in our path. We can’t slip on it, if we don’t set foot on it, right?!
Contact your physical therapist if you would like a more thorough assessment of your balance or additional exercises to keep you strong and upright this Winter!