Winter is Here – Stay Motivated, Stay Healthy, Avoid Injury!
Dr. Frank J. Scerbo, PT, DPT, MS, CSCS ///
December brings the joy of holiday celebrations set in a magical winter wonderland – but the cold weather also brings with it certain hazards. At Scerbo Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, we want our patients to enjoy everything this season has to offer, so I’d like to share some tips for staying fit and avoiding injury in cold weather.
Whether you’re out for a walk, run, winter sport, or just trudging through parking lots, you’ll want to check the forecast before heading outside. According to the Mayo Clinic, temperature, wind, and moisture, along with the length of time that you’ll be outside, are key factors in planning safe cold-weather activity.
Take note of the wind chill factor, since it makes the cold more extreme. Consider putting off your outdoor workout if it’s raining or snowing unless you have waterproof gear. If you get soaked you may not be able to keep your core body temperature high enough.
Wear layers that you can put on or take off to regulate body temperature. A base layer of synthetic wicking material will work better than cotton to keep you dry and warm. Make sure you have winter clothes that protect your head, hands, feet, and ears since the extremities get cold faster than your core. And be aware that any exposed skin is vulnerable to frostbite when the temperature is low enough or a cold wind is blowing.
It gets dark earlier in winter, so wear reflective clothing if you’re going out at night. And if you ride a bike, both headlights and taillights are a good idea.
Be on the lookout for ice
Falling on ice is one of the major causes of winter injuries, from bruised hips, twisted ankles, and muscle strains in the shoulders to conditions as serious as concussions. Remember to always watch where your next step is going so you can avoid ice and other slippery areas.
If, in spite of your best efforts, you feel yourself going down, falling on your side may help prevent head and back injuries. Also, keeping your wrists and knees bent can also help you avoid muscle strains. The number one thing to remember – and also the hardest thing to do – is not to try to break your fall with your hands or elbows, but to have as much body contact with the surface as possible to spread out the impact.
Prepare for cold-weather exercise
If you’ve been following an outdoor exercise routine, by all means, keep it up during the winter, weather permitting. Keeping up your exercise routine year-round helps you maintain flexibility, strength, and a healthy weight.
• Stay Hydrated: Drink water during and after your workout, even if you don’t feel thristy. You still sweat in the winter, and cold weather can be dehydrating.
• Slow Down: Running or exercising too fast makes you more prone to injury. Find a comfortable speed or pace and stick to it. If the weather is too bad to run outdoors, bring your workout indoors.
• Warm Up, Cool Down, and Stretch: Whether you’re an athlete, winter sport enthusiast, or heading out to shovel the sidewalk, make sure to do a short warm-up and stretch to avoid muscle strains and aches. Your Scerbo physical therapist can suggest warmup and cool-down routines that are right for you.
Hazards of the Holiday Rush
We tend to pull out all the stops when it comes to holiday preparation – cooking, cleaning, hanging decorations, shopping, and carrying heavy unwieldy boxes and bags. Try to pace your holiday chores. When you are overtired you are more likely to experience muscle strains. Don’t carry things that put you off balance, and ask for help with heavier tasks.
At Scerbo, our physical therapists can help you prepare to meet the challenges of winter so you can stay healthy and injury-free or recover if you do sustain an injury. From our family to yours, we wish you a safe and joyous holiday season.