A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Winter walking safety: Walk like a penguin

Winter walking safety is top of mind since ice and snow increases the risk for slips, trips and falls. Winter worries about falls don’t need to keep you indoors. Whether you’re walking to work or heading out for cross-country skiing, snowboarding or other fun winter activities, these tips can keep you safe.

Wisconsin has the highest rates of death from unintentional falls for those over 65 years in the nation, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

This rate especially is concerning for older adults, but falls also were the No. 1 cause of injury sending people to the emergency room amongst almost all age groups, according to a 2021 state report.

“It’s important for all of us to know the facts about fall prevention,” said Liz Kracht, injury prevention coordinator at Marshfield Clinic Health System. “Falls are our number one mechanism of injury for both the young and older adults.”  If you have concerns about your or loved ones’ balance and mobility, community Aging and Disability Resource Centers often offer evidence-based falls prevention programs.

In an effort to keep us all injury-free this winter, consider these walking safety tips:

  • Wear appropriate footwear like winter boots with a thick, nonslip tread and a low, wide heel when walking outside, even if it’s just to and from your car. High heels, tennis shoes, etc. are not considered winter weather appropriate.
  • Adjust your pace so it’s suitable for the walking surface. Don’t rush!
  • Be aware of your surroundings and path. Watch for ice patches and be careful when your walking path is  snow-covered.
  • Do not take shortcuts not intended for pedestrian use. When possible, follow a clear path and sidewalks.
  • Minimize the amount of items you’re carrying. Large items may make it hard to see or cause you to become unbalanced while walking on slippery surfaces.
  • Wipe your feet clean on floor mats upon entering buildings and change footwear as necessary.
  • Clean up any wet areas to prevent anyone coming in after you from slipping.
  • Plan ahead and leave early when traveling to avoid the need to rush.

Walk like a penguin

The phrase might bring a silly image to mind, but it offers key techniques to keep yourself safe when conditions are slippery. To walk like a penguin make sure you:

  1. Bend your knees slightly and walk flat footed.
  2. Point your feet out slightly like a penguin.
  3. Keep your center of gravity over your feet as much as possible.
  4. Watch where you are stepping.

For immediate care, visit Marshfield Clinic Health System.

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One Response
  1. Jan 25, 2024

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