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How to Keep Your Balance This Winter

Jan 6, 2024 | Fitness & Wellness

Winter in Western New York can be a beautiful sight, but it often comes with icy challenges.

Walking on slippery sidewalks and pathways can be risky, with the potential for slips and falls that can lead to injuries.

To help you stay safe and balanced, our occupational therapy team has compiled some practical tips for walking on icy surfaces and suggested exercises to improve your balance.

Try these simple yet effective strategies to help you navigate winter with confidence.

Walk Like a Penguin

When walking on icy surfaces, try to imitate the waddle of a penguin. This means taking shorter, shuffled steps and keeping your center of gravity directly over your feet. The reason this works is that it increases your stability by widening your base of support, making it less likely for you to slip. Walk with a slight bend in your knees to maintain balance and control.

Wear Good Boots with Grip

Investing in a pair of winter boots with excellent traction is essential for walking safely in icy conditions. Look for boots with a rubber sole designed for gripping icy surfaces. These boots will provide better stability and help prevent slips and falls.

Use Walking Poles or a Cane

Walking poles or a cane can provide additional stability and support when walking on icy terrain. They help you maintain balance by providing extra points of contact with the ground. When using walking poles, take shorter steps and plant the poles firmly on the ground to help distribute your weight evenly.

Exercises to Improve Balance

The semi-tandem balance, mini squat, and alternating lunge exercises explained below are designed to target the muscles that play a crucial role in maintaining balance.

Strengthening these muscles can improve your stability and reduce the risk of falling, especially on slippery surfaces.

Regular practice of these exercises will enhance your overall balance and make it easier to navigate icy conditions with confidence.

  1. Semi-Tandem Balance
    This exercise involves standing with one foot almost in front of the other.If you’d like more of a challenge, stand with the heel of the front foot touching the toes of the back foot.

    Hold onto a stable surface or wall for support if needed and gradually increase the time you can hold this position.

  2. Mini Squat
    Performing mini squats can help improve your leg strength, which is crucial for maintaining balance.Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly bend your knees, lowering your body a few inches.

    Hold the position for a few seconds before returning to a standing position.

    Repeat this exercise to strengthen your legs and improve stability.

  3. Alternating Lunge
    Lunges help build leg muscles and enhance overall balance.Start by standing with your feet together.

    Take a step forward with one foot and lower your body until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.

    Return to the starting position and alternate legs.

    Keep your core engaged for stability.

Walking safely in winter requires a combination of practical tips and targeted exercises to improve balance and stability.

By walking like a penguin, wearing appropriate boots, and using walking poles or a cane, you can reduce the risk of slips and falls. Additionally, incorporating the recommended exercises into your routine will help you build strength and enhance your balance — ensuring a safer and more enjoyable winter season.

Struggling with your balance?

Let our Occupational Therapists create a personalized plan to help you feel and move your best!

Treatment is covered by insurance, no referral is needed to start, and with flexible appointments available, you can find a time that works with your schedule.

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