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Posted on 01-09-2018

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Now that winter is officially here, it is important to remember that daily and outdoor activities require extra attention than they normally do in the warmer months of the year.  Winter comes with its own set of hurdles, especially here in the Midwest, including subzero temperatures, blustery winds, snow and ice, forcing us to pay more attention to how we go about our normal daily routines.  In this blog I will highlight 5 tips on staying safe and preventing injury this winter. 

Tip #1:  Prior to attempting anything outdoors (walking, running, sledding, shoveling, skiing, snowboarding, etc.) it is important to always warm up and stretch beforehand.  As the temperature drops, the body is more inclined to muscle strains and sprains, as well as joint pains and injury to the deconditioned individual since blood is drawn to the body’s core and more restricted from the arms and legs leading to increased risk for injury.   Performing squats, leg lunges and jumping jacks are just a few great ways to get the blood pumping throughout the body, while warming up and prepping the musculoskeletal system for outdoor activity.  It is important to note that you should not get sweated up prior to going outdoors to avoid the risk of hypothermia. 

Tip #2:  Proper attire.  Always, always, always dress for the weather!  Prior to going outdoors, check the weather and dress accordingly based on activity (winter hat, scarf, waterproof gloves, insulated jacket, snow pants if necessary, warm and breathable socks, and boots that are waterproof and provide adequate traction).  Hand and toe warmers are also great if an extended period of time will be spent outdoors. 

Tip #3:  Hydrate properly!  Even though the temperatures outside are not ideal for reaching for a nice, cool glass of water, it is important to stay hydrated to avoid dehydration, which can further increase risk of muscle strain and injury.

Tip #4:  How to properly shovel.  Warm up and dress appropriately as stated above.  Use an ergonomic shovel if possible.  Always push the snow in front of you instead of lifting and tossing.  If you do have to lift the snow, bend at the knees, lift using the arms and legs (not the back!), and turn using the entire body and never at the waist.  See picture below.

Image result for proper shoveling form

Tip #5:  Take frequent breaks to rest, warm up and hydrate if necessary.  Stop all activity if you experience shortness of breath, fatigue or chest pain.  These are signs of pushing yourself too hard and may require emergency assistance.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Claire

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