Stability and Balance in the Winter
By Zeinab Ndow, Registered Kinesiologist, BCAK
As we transition to the colder season in Vancouver with snowy, slippery sidewalks and roads, maintaining stability and balance becomes a challenge. Unfortunately, falls become more common and an influx of fall-related injuries present themselves at our clinic. Therefore, it is important that we are prepared for these obstacles and try to prevent these types of injuries with proper footwear and awareness of our body’s position.
- If nothing else, make sure to opt for shoes that have adequate grip on the soles to prevent the possibility of slipping on snow and ice. Also be cognizant to wear socks that keep your feet warm. When our feet and toes are cold, the sensory receptors that detect pressure changes under our feet become compromised due to decreased circulation to the area, thus possibly increasing the likelihood of falls on terrain that we are not used to.
- Awareness of one’s surroundings while walking is an important preventative measure to falling on snowy and slippery terrain. Observe and attempt to avoid where snowy and icy patches are while walking or running. If not possible, slow down, and lower your center of gravity and increase your base of support. What this means, is that you are to create a slight bend in your knees, and slightly widen your stance, to increase stability (think about how easy it is to knock someone over if they are standing straight up with feet together compared to in a widened stance). Engage the muscles in your abdominal region to further help with maintaining balance. Use your arms to serve as an aid in maintaining stability by extending them out sideways from your body, they are more useful this way than right next to your side.
Try these exercises to further help increase your stability and balance:
- Try standing with eyes closed, and keep as still as possible for 30 seconds
2. Try standing on a pillow, maintaining stillness, for 30 seconds.
3. If feeling confident, put these two together (stand on pillow with eyes closed), maintaining stillness, for 30 seconds.
- In all 3 cases, engage the muscles in your abdominal region
- You will also likely feel the muscles in your calves and shins working hard to keep you still
- Holding onto a surface for support, try standing on your toes and lowering your heels to the floor and repeat 3 sets of 10x, and if feeling confident progress to single-leg stance heel raises.
5. Holding onto the same surface for support, stand and slowly lift only your toes off the ground. Repeat 3 sets of 10x.
- These exercises (4&5) are important for strengthening the muscles in your calves and shins, both of which play a large role in maintaining balance when standing.
For more guidance in strengthening and improving stability and balance, or if you experience an injury, book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists or kinesiologist today.