But with a variety of ski resorts, indoor and outdoor sports rinks, and cross-country trails a short drive away, community members have plenty of opportunities to enjoy winter sports. Staying active and spending some time outside is a great way to stay healthy and maintain your fitness levels during the long and cooler winter months. To help ensure you welcome spring in peak form, take a few precautions and plan ahead to avoid injuries and mishaps. These tips can help:
- Take some extra time to warm up and stretch out before any activity. A 20 degree drop in the temperature can make cold muscles more susceptible to strain and injury.
- Enjoy outdoor activities with a buddy. A fall while skiing or hiking can be catastrophic if you’re on your own and can’t access help.
- Remember that anything involving speed or impact – think skiing and ice hockey – put you at risk for head injuries. Always wear a helmet, no matter your age or skill level.
- Be prepared for temperature fluctuations, and dress in layers to help you quickly adjust. It’s obviously important to keep warm, but it’s also relatively easy to overheat in cold temperatures as you exert energy and work up a sweat.
- Drink lots of water. You might not notice the effects of dehydration quite as quickly in colder weather, so play it safe by drinking at least two to four ounces every 30 minutes. As a bonus, staying hydrated will help you keep your energy up.
- Know your limits. Extreme sports may look exciting, but most people are better off enjoying them as spectators. Take a lesson or two to keep your skills sharp, maintain control of your movements, and enjoy the exhilaration of the great outdoors – without taking unnecessary risks.
- Falling is inevitable when you’re skiing or skating, so make sure you cushion the blow. Depending on your skill level and the intensity of your activity, you may want to protect vulnerable bones and joints with knee and elbow pads, wrist or ankle supports. And of course, if your activity involves a hockey stick and puck, don’t forget a high quality mouth guard.
- Double check your gear or equipment. A loose ski binding or wobbly skate blade can easily result in a sprain or fracture that will sideline you for the rest of the season.
- If you’re going off the beaten track, be aware of the weather forecast, watch for developing storms, and be very alert to possible avalanche dangers. Make sure you have an easily accessible flashlight and whistle. If you’re backpacking or exploring on snow machines, consider taking a survival kit with essentials such as a mylar blanket, emergency flare, first aid kit, and matches.
- Mind your fingers and toes. Wear dense socks that are appropriate for your activity, and warm gloves that are snug but not tight. Wiggle your toes and make a fist every hour or so to make sure you aren’t experiencing numbness or early frostbite.
With so many options to choose from, there’s a winter activity for just about anyone and any age. So get out and enjoy the season, and stay safe by taking just a few easy steps to be prepared.
This article first appeared in the January 2019 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.