Walking is a great way to get out and explore our community. For some, it is a low-cost heart-healthy recreational activity. For others, it is a way to get where you need to go for work or errands. Walking is also one of the best ways to keep our bodies healthy because it improves fitness and mental well-being.

Tips to help you stay on your feet when out and about:

Make a plan

As much as possible:

  • Let others know where you are going, and try to walk with a buddy.
  • Be mindful of the weather, and if you can, go out when the weather is good
  • Choose a route that is in good repair, with no obstacles, and if you are going out at night, try to make sure you have good lighting.
  • If you have items to carry, use a backpack. That will keep your hands free in case of a fall.
  • Carry a cell phone, or if you have a mobile help button that works outside the home, be sure to bring it with you.

Choose your gear

  • Choose footwear that fits well, is appropriate for the weather, and provides good support. For more information, see Footwear.
  • Wear prescribed eyewear.
  • A walking stick or trekking poles (also called hiking poles, hiking sticks, or walking poles) can give you some extra support.
  • If you use a mobility aid like a cane or walker, but sure to use it on your walk.

When out and about

  • Take your time and try not to rush.
  • Keep your focus on your path. Put away cellphones and other items that may distract while walking.
  • Use handrails where available.
  • When feeling unsteady or unwell, ask someone to walk your dog to reduce the chance of being pulled over, or tripped by accident.
  • If you are on private property and it is slippery or in poor repair, you can report it to the owner or landlord.
  • If you see a public sidewalk that is in poor repair, you can report it to your municipality. In Winnipeg, contact 311.

Safe Winter Walking Tips

In winter, snow and ice can make winter walking a challenge and increase your risk of falling. A fall can cause serious injuries that can lead to both short-term and long-term disabilities.  Here are some additional tips to keep you on your feet and make winter walking safer.

General:

  • At home, keep your sidewalks and steps clear of snow and ice. Use sand, grit or ice melt to add traction.
  • Report any icy conditions to landlords or businesses. Hazardous ice sidewalks and street crossings can be reported to the municipality. In Winnipeg, call 311.

Make a plan:

  • As much as possible, choose a route that is free from ice and snow.
  • Watch the weather and avoid going out if there has been freezing rain. Take extra caution if there are snow drifts, or if it is snowy or windy.

Also, beware of high snowbanks that make it difficult for drivers and pedestrians to see clearly.

Choose winter footwear that:

  • Fits well and provides good support.
  • Provides traction and has a wide, stable non-slip rubber sole.
  • See Footwear for information on choosing safe winter boots.
  • Consider wearing ice grippers (see Footwear).
  • If you wear a mask outside, wear a tight-fitting one like an N95 to prevent your eyewear from fogging.
  • Wear warm mitts or gloves so you don’t need to put your hands in your pockets. Your arms can help you balance, and possibly ease a fall.
  • The sun sets early in the winter months. If your route is dark, you may want to use a headlamp to help light your way.
  • Trekking poles (also called hiking poles, hiking sticks or walking poles) can be used for extra support.
  • If you use a cane, you can buy an ice pick attachment for outdoor use. The ice pick flips up out of the way when you go indoors.
  • If you have a walker, be sure to use it so it can help reduce the chance of a fall when walking outdoors.

Walk like a penguin!

Penguins are great at moving around safely on snow and ice.  If you are unable to avoid a patch of ice, walking like a penguin can prevent a fall.

Follow these tips to walk like a penguin:

  • Bend slightly and walk flat footed.
  • Point your feet out slightly like a penguin.
  • Keep your centre of gravity over your feet as much as possible.
  • Watch where you are stepping.
  • Take shorter, shuffle-like steps.
  • Keep your arms at your sides (not in your pockets!).
  • Concentrate on keeping your balance.
  • Go S-L-O-W!

(video shared with permission from Alberta Health Services

 

What to do if you fall?

  • The first thing to do is catch your breath. Take your time to assess whether it is safe for you to get up. Try to keep calm (see Getting up from a fall).
  • Determine if you are injured. Did you hit your head, or hurt your ankle, hip, wrist or elbow?  Do you feel shaky or dizzy?
  • If you are injured or you need help getting up from a fall, call 911 on your cellphone or use your mobile help button to call for help. If you are unable to make a call, yell for someone to come and help you.
  • If you don’t think you are injured and want to get up, wait until your body feels ready to get up.
    • Move slowly and mindfully.
    • Try to roll onto your side.
    • Pull yourself onto your hands and knees.
    • Crawl to a chair, couch, bench, tree, street sign, or other sturdy object that you can use for support as you get up.

Learn from the fall

After a slip on the ice or snow, thinking back to what caused the fall can help you avoid having another fall. Ask yourself “What was I doing?” and “What could I have done differently?” Use this information when you are planning your next walk.

 

 

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