Wintertime is considerably harder on the average person. Not only is the weather colder but there are also slippery conditions right outside your front door, making it a challenge to get out of the house. At Livewell Health and Physiotherapy, we don’t believe that Winter should hold you back from going out and staying active.
Our Kitchener Physiotherapy team and Baden Physiotherapy team work with patients to help them understand how their body moves in the winter. By sharing their knowledge of Physiotherapy with patients, our Physiotherapists help patients learn what is most effective for their body and their physical activity levels. Most importantly, they also teach how to prevent Winter injuries while staying active and going outdoors—even if it’s just a quick walk to the car or a longer walk around the neighbourhood.
Here are some of our top Physiotherapy and Wellness Tips for Winter Walking
The Right Footwear Prevents The Need For Injury Recovery and Physiotherapy
Staying safe when walking outside means choosing the right footwear. If you live in Kitchener or anywhere in Ontario, you know that winter means snow and ice covering the ground. Before you step out, you need to put your best foot forward!
The best winter footwear are those that help prevent slips, falls and injuries. The right winter boots will not only keep your feet warm and dry, but they will have the right traction to prevent falls. The outsole of the shoe (the part that touches the ground) should also have anti-slip and grips that help maintain your balance when walking.
If you need to improvise and make the best of the footwear you currently own that does not have these features, there are a few alternative solutions—like Ice Grips. This handy winter invention is the best way to change a shoe into winter-geared footwear. Ice grips are a mechanism that can be worn on a shoe to give it extra traction and grip and sometimes includes studs that can puncture the ice and snow.
Before Going Outside in the Winter
When going outside, make sure your body is prepared for the temperature, the weather and the conditions of the ground. On extremely cold days, your body is working overtime to produce heat and your heart is doing majority of the work to get your blood flowing. To help your heart out and to warm up your muscles, engage in some light warm up exercises in the comfort of your home before going outside.
Light warm ups include anything from stretching to light cardio. An example of a great warm up exercise includes:
1) Light cardio for 10 minutes. This can mean walking around the house to get your heart rate up, doing jumping jacks or jogging in place.
2) Leg stretches that focus on the calves and hamstrings. These two muscle areas are typically where we see the most strains and pulls in the winter.
- To stretch out calves, stand in front of a wall, and bend one foot so that the toes are touching the wall but the heel is touching the floor—this gets a flex in your calves which stretches out the muscles. Hold the pose for 10-15 seconds and alternate to the other foot.
- To stretch out hamstrings, stand with legs shoulder with apart and bend one knee behind, pulling the leg and foot to the back. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds and keep your balance. Switch and do the same with the other leg. You should feel a stretch in the front thigh area.
3) Standing torso rotations to get your upper body moving. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and gently twist the upper body from side to side. Do this until your upper body feels loose.
Now that your body is warmed up, help it maintain its warmth. By dressing in layers on cold days, your body is given the protection it needs. Your first layer should be a thin shirt that is close to the skin and can wick away moisture. The next layer needs to be a little bit heavier to help keep the heat in—like fleece. Your final layer should be in the form of a jacket or an outer shell (if you’re playing sports).
And remember… Wear a hat and gloves in the winter because they cover extremities that lose heat the fastest!
As You Step Outside, Focus On Walking Safely
Physiotherapy focuses on how the body moves in order to help prevent injuries or to help heal an injury. During Winter, our Kitchener Physiotherapists and Baden Physiotherapists help patients to understand the movements of the body, and how our bodies change during the colder months and as we step onto snowy streets.
Our Physiotherapists also help patients determine the amount of activity that can be taken on outside in the Winter. The level of accessibility in the Winter will largely depend on the individual patient’s level of activity prior, any current injuries, and their ability to maneuver in the Winter. But there are a few tips that are important for everyone to keep in mind.
As a general rule, smaller movements that keep your centre of balance are the way to go. To do this, make sure your feet are shoulder width apart to help provide a solid base for movement. As with any walking movements, be sure to bend your knees and keep the body as loose as possible. Some people also choose to shuffle instead of walk, which also helps with keeping stability and footing. Shuffling should also be made in small movements. Others find that assistance from walking poles, or a cane with a retractable ice pick, helps them to keep their balance. Lastly, if you are in need of a walker to move, these are also safe as long as the wheels have traction and you are walking slowly.
Any way you move, it’s important to choose the clearest path possible to avoid the potential of injuries. Choose sidewalks that are well maintained and make sure that your own property is clear of any hazardous conditions. Sometimes, the worst falls happen right on your doorstep, so be sure to clean these pathways and any high traffic areas around the entrances to your home.
Injuries Still Happen—Needing Physiotherapy in Kitchener and Baden
With these Physiotherapy and wellness tips in mind, we hope you can get outside and stay active this Winter. Although taking precautions should minimize injuries and health problems during the Winter, injuries can still occur.
For any Winter injuries or other conditions, please don’t hesitate to contact Livewell Health and Physiotherapy. Our team of Physiotherapists can help you recover and regain movement in your body once again, or we can recommend our other solutions such as Chiropractic treatments or Massage Therapy.