Winter Walking Safety

1Physical activity is an important part of healthy aging. It helps to prevent falls and fractures.  In addition to snowshoeing or shoveling, walking is just one of the many activities to get you moving during the winter months. 

Benefits of Walking

  • Improves mental, social and physical health, balance, posture and muscle strength
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease, developing high blood pressure and diabetes
  • Improves bone health to reduce the risk of fractures from falls
  • Provides an opportunity to be social and spend time with others

Several factors can cause a slip, fall or injury while you walk during the winter months, such as balance, medication, distractions, temperature and snowfall. It’s important to be prepared for winter walking conditions.  Here are a few helpful tips:

Tips to prepare for your Walk

  • Wear reflective gear, warm clothing and non-slip footwear.
  • Monitor the forecast and plan ahead. Dress in layers so you are prepared for changing winter weather. Stay warm by wearing a hat, scarf and gloves.
  • Wear bright or reflective gear so you can be seen by drivers, cyclists and other walkers.
  • Choose warm, stable footwear. Look for well-insulated and lightweight footwear with a
    non-slip tread sole.
  • Consider a cane, walking poles, ice grippers on footwear or other assistive devices when outside.

During your Walk:

  • Give your eyes time to adjust to changes in light when going from outdoors to indoors, or vice versa. It’s also a good idea to have your eyes checked yearly.
  • Scan for hazards.  Be aware and take extra precaution when walking over ice, wet leaves, rain and snow. Try to walk on clear paths, ask for help or choose a different route.
  • Watch for ice, cracks and uneven or changing surfaces. Be safe! Walk on designated and clear paths. Try walking with a friend. Take your time and ask for help, if needed.
  • If you find yourself walking on ice, move slowly and think about your next move. Keep knees loose, shorten your strides and shuffle your feet. Remember that wet leaves, rain and snow drifts can be as risky as ice.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets to help stay balanced.
  • Take extra care when stepping off the last step of stairs. This is a common place for a fall. Use the handrail for extra support when available.
  • Once it gets dark outside, you may not be able to see dangers as easily - and dangers, such as cars, may not be able to see you.

After your walk:

  • Assess how you feel. If you are sore, switch to shorter walks and gradually increase your walking time.
  • Enjoy a glass of water. Dehydration can make you dizzy, which increases the risk of falling. Drink 6-8 glasses of water each day to stay hydrated.

And finally… don’t forget to keep your health care provider informed of your physical activity level as medication can increase your risk of falling. 

So what are you waiting for... take the challenge and treat yourself to a walk!