Since it is the winter season, the risk for slipping or falling on ice significantly increases due to slippery conditions. Numerous injuries occur due to people slipping and falling on ice ranging from broken hips to head injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 800,000 falls per year which require hospitalization. The medical costs associated with fall-related injuries add up to $34 billion per year. These injuries are a serious matter as it affects our ability to care for ourselves or our loved ones both physically and financially. While keeping these statistics in mind, here are some tips to decrease your risk for falling on the ice.

Tips to prevent falls on ice

  1. Make sure to wear appropriate footwear that has treads to improve traction, especially while on icy surfaces.
  2. Wear enough layers of clothing to not only keep yourself warm but also to decrease muscle tension throughout your body so you are more relaxed and don’t perform quick, jerky movements.
  3. Walk slowly with small, flat-footed steps when walking over snow or icy areas to improve your ability to react to slippery conditions if you were to lose your footing.
  4. When getting out of the car, use your vehicle for support as much as possible to improve your stability.
  5. If possible, try to avoid carrying items in your hands as this will improve your ability to catch yourself if you were to lose your balance.

Along with these tips to improve your safety while negotiating icy areas, here are some exercises to improve your balance while at home to decrease your overall risk for falls.

Exercises to prevent falls on ice

For all of these exercises, please perform in a corner within your home with your back facing the corner. Have your body about a foot away from the surface of the walls. By performing these balance exercises in the corner, you will improve your safety in case you lose balance by gently leaning back into the corner as your body will be supported on both sides of your body.

Feet Together

Standing balance feet together

Stand with feet together in a corner in case you lose your balance. Cross arms across your chest and hold this position for 30-60 seconds. Repeat this exercise up to three times.

Heel to Toe

Standing balance heel to toe

Stand with your feet in a heel to toe position in a corner in case you lose your balance. Cross your arms across your chest and hold the position for 30-60 seconds. This exercise will be more challenging than the previous exercise, so don’t be discouraged if you’re not able to hold the position as long. Repeat on the other side by switching your feet and perform each side three times.

Standing On One Foot

standing balance single leg balance

Position yourself in a corner in case you lose your balance. Cross arms over chest and lift one leg up. This exercise will be the most challenging, so don’t be discouraged if you’re not able to hold the position as long. Balance in this stance for 10-30 second. Repeat on both sides three times each.

If you feel uncomfortable doing any of these exercises, or you don’t feel safe going outside, consider seeing a physical therapist in order to improve your balance and strength so you feel safe being independent.

Eric Whelan graduated from Concordia University (Portland, OR) with a Bachelor of Arts in Exercise Sports Science. He then went on to pursue his Doctor of Physical Therapy from Concordia University (Wisconsin).