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Warming up to Winter Walking

Warming up to Winter Walking

Winter is just around the corner which means slippery sidewalks and uneven walkways, both a potential source of ankle sprains, knee and lower back pain.  So before the snow flies here are a few tips to keep fit and injury free this winter whether you are just out for a walk or want to continue with your running:

Proper equipment:

Having the proper shoes/boots for winter is important in preventing ankle sprains and blisters.

  • A well fitting hiking shoe with good ankle support for uneven terrain and sole with a tread capable of providing traction on slippery terrain will help.
  • A comfortable fit & using wool socks to wick away sweat instead of cotton will ensure blisters don’t occur.
  • Trekking poles are a good way to provide extra stability on those steep and slippery paths.
  • Trekking poles reduce the amount of impact on the knees & ankles during downhill walking.
  • For running there are shoes available that provide traction specifically for winter conditions via tiny studs in the sole.

Get fit before you go:

Walking is physically demanding involving almost every muscle group in the body.  A few exercises to better prepare for winter season can make those sidewalks and trails much easier.  Depending on your current level of physical fitness, it is best to start with 10 repetitions once a day and increase this number gradually as you improve your fitness level.

  • Squats, simply standing shoulder width apart bend the knees to a comfortable level maintaining your balance, then pressing back up again.
  • Step ups/down, using a step 8-12” high, place one leg up, then step up with the other, repeat starting with the opposite leg first.
  • Calf raise, stand on the first stair with the balls of the feet on the edge.  Holding onto the railing, while pressing up to stand on the toes of the feet.

Balance for healthy ankles and knees:

Ankle exercises can improve your stability, coordination, balance and awareness of your footing on uneven or slippery surfaces.  Research has shown a reduction in ankle and knee injuries with regular balance exercises in athletes.  There are several pieces of equipment on the market today that can add variety/difficulty to your exercise routine:

  • BOSU trainer
  •  Wobble and Rocker boards
  • Foam Rollers

An exercise requiring no equipment can be used to train these same principles of ankle stability:

  • Balance on one leg, maintain a slight bend in the supporting knee while balancing.
  • Standing on a rolled up towel of various thickness will make this exercise more difficult

Check with your physiotherapist for more information on these and other great tips, or for an injury prevention assessment.

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