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Stay Active Safely This Winter

by UPMC Susquehanna

When we feel the sting of cold weather, we might brush aside the idea of working up a sweat, but staying hydrated during strenuous activity like shoveling snow is just as important as staying hydrated when mowing the lawn. Shoveling snow manually is hard, physically taxing work and can be dangerous to your muscles, particularly your back. Learning how to remove snow safely is important to avoid stress and injury to your heart or back.
 
When shoveling snow:
  • Maintain a straight back and bend at the knees
  • Avoiding twisting motions like turning side to side
  • Lift and support with your legs
  • Wear appropriate clothing
  • Come inside to warm up during frigid temperatures and change into dry clothes
  • Take breaks and hydrate
  • Enlist help with snow removal as needed - if you are elderly or suffer from a physical condition, it is best to enlist the help of loved ones or to hire someone for snow removal
  • If you live in a snow-heavy area, consider purchasing a snow blower to cut down on manual snow shoveling
Wintry weather can spell slips, trips and falls as well as dangerously frigid temperatures. To avoid slips and falls on slick or slushy sidewalks:
  • Wear rubber-soled shoes with good tread to improve traction
  • Slow down
  • Take shorter steps and widen your stance
  • Stick to paths that have been cleared and sprinkled with rock salt or ice melt
  • Don’t carry items in your hands—your instinct will be to protect what you’re carrying instead of righting yourself or breaking your fall should you start to slip
Once back inside, remember to remove your shoes and place them in a designated place out of the way. Any shoe buildup of ice and snow will melt, which can create a slick surface that could lead to a slip and fall indoors. If your home has smooth floors like wood, tile or linoleum, consider wearing non-skid socks or slippers instead of stocking feet to avoid indoor slips.
 
As winter cold sets in, it can be hard to stay active. The inactivity that often accompanies winter months can lead to muscle atrophy, decreased endurance and balance, and increased joint stiffness, so if you’ve taken a break from physical activity, it’s important to work back into exercise slowly and steadily.
 
If you enjoy winter weather, try an outdoor activity like snowshoeing, skiing or ice skating. If you’re put off by winter cold, consider using an exercise DVD, walking laps inside your home, utilizing a treadmill or stationary bike, or visiting a local gym, YMCA or exercise course to combat winter inactivity.
 
Partnering with a friend can also help you stay active, as company not only makes exercise more enjoyable, it can also help keep us accountable and establish a regular workout time. You can also schedule a one-time visit with a physical therapist to discuss healthy exercise routines. He or she will be able to recommend an individually tailored exercise program you can do right in your own home to stay active safely this winter.