Snow and ice are finally upon us!  It’s time to make sure you remain safe and healthy this wintry season. It is estimated that over 270,000 Americans will visit emergency rooms this winter due to seasonal injuries. Cold weather affects your body by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure.  It also can make your blood clot more easily and constrict your arteries, which decreases blood supply. Here are a few tips to help you stay safe and healthy while outside this winter.

  • Try to maintain your fitness level throughout the year. It is easier to be in the cold when your body is conditioned. If you are out of shape, make sure to start slow and gradually build up your tolerance to activity in the cold.
  • Before shoveling, make sure to stretch and do a light warm up. Push the snow rather than lift, making sure to only partially fill the shovel. If you do end up lifting the snow, make sure to lift with your legs and not your back. It is also important to take breaks, making sure not to work to the point of exhaustion.
  • Dress warmly, and wear gloves or mittens and heavy boots to protect against frostbite and injury when outside for any length of time.
  • Walk carefully when outside. Sprinkling cat litter or sand on icy walkways or driveways will help to reduce your risk of falling.

Here are 5 easy exercises to help you warm up before you work outside this winter:

  1. Hamstring stretch– While lying on the floor, lift your leg and with a strap, gently pulling back towards you.  Do your best to keep both legs straight (without locking your knee).  Hold the stretch for 15 seconds and then switch.  Do this 3 times on each leg.
    winter 1
  2. Torso rotation–While lying on the floor, bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor.  Rotate your knees from side to side, keeping a slow, even speed.  Keep the twist comfortable.  Do 10 on each side.
  3. Squats – Standing, place your feet hip width apart, weight in your heels, go only as low as you can without lifting your heels off the ground.  Do a set of 15 reps.
    winter 3
  4. Shoulder circles–Standing or sitting in good posture, gently move both shoulders through a circle going forwards and then backwards for about 10 repetitions each direction. Try and keep it even and slow.
    winter 4
  5. Neck stretches– Standing or sitting up very straight, place one arm behind you, like you are reaching backwards and gently tilt your ear away from that side and towards your shoulder. Repeat this going the other direction.  Do it slowly and breathe through this movement, holding for 15 sec.  Do this 5 times on each side.
    winter 5

For any aches and pains, or injuries that arise this winter, the therapists at Freedom Physical Therapy Services can help get you back feeling better in no time, allowing you more Freedom to enjoy the rest of winter.

Physical Therapist at Freedom Physical Therapy Services
Molly Rittberg received her master’s degree in Physical Therapy in 2007 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and went on to receive her doctorate from Rosalind Franklin University (North Chicago) in 2009. She has since worked in an outpatient orthopedic practice where she worked with patients of all ages, injuries and disabilities. She has a wide variety of experiences including knee, ankle, foot and shoulder injuries, post-operative conditions, spinal rehabilitation and peripheral neuropathies.