exercise ballAh winter, the season ripe with white fluffy snow, cool crisp temperatures and icy-laden sidewalks. Its beauty is a wonder to behold and one best viewed while strolling about the frosty city streets and snow packed river valley. But if one is ill prepared to meet Mother Nature’s winter elegance, you may find yourself laid up and cursing her frigid elements.

Falls with people, regardless of age, often occur when there is leg muscle weakness, poor balance and coordination, poor vision or just plain lack of focus combined with a gotta-get-there-now mentality. If precautions aren’t taken before the snow falls, winter becomes an especially hazardous time, creating unsafe conditions that can lead to slips and falls. Although the winter weather may be challenging, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself to be and remain active this time of year:

  1. Dress for the occasion. Layer your clothes to preserve body heat. Be sure the clothes are not only of good quality, moisture wicking and insulating material, but that they fit you like a glove. Loose fitting garments can get in the way and restrict your body’s movements, making it difficult to respond to slick icy patches underfoot.
  2. Put your best foot forward. Wear a well-insulated and waterproof boot with a thick, non-slip tread and low heel.
  3. The eyes have it. Don’t neglect your annual eye exam. Sometimes avoiding a broken bone due to a fall is as simple as being able to see and then avoid the icy patch before it wipes you out.
  4. Exercise trumps all. Engaging in regular physical activity will help build leg strength and enhance both body balance and coordination, decreasing the risk of falling and the severity of injuries should you fall anyway. Just 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week doing basic balance postures (i.e. standing forward knee lift, stork stand) can result in a more flexible and adaptive balance system in your body.
  5. Think snails and surgeons, not spiders and space cadets. Slow your pace and pay attention to your surroundings, especially those under foot. Extra time to get to your destination beats out sporting a cast and a bruised ego any day.

Don’t let Mother Nature’s winter elements keep you locked away inside when, with a little pre-season preparation, you can experience her wondrous gifts first hand. For more information on how to improve your balance and coordination with exercise, visit one of the professional Fitness Consultants at the MacEwan University Sport and Wellness. Happy trekking!

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Terra Giggey is Certified Personal Trainer at MacEwan University Sport and Wellness. She specializes in detailed and technical training programs for endurance activities such as triathlon, running and cycling.