It’s that time of year again – short cold days with long colder nights. Exercise helps keep the body fit and the soul happy but it’s so much easier to so something to keep fit on a warm bright summer evening than on a snowy dark winter afternoon. The winter months of December, January and February are more of a challenge when it comes to maintaining health and fitness so what tips can help us stay active and injury free in winter?
BACK PAIN – KEEP MOVING
One of the best exercises to help mechanicallow back pain is walking. However, this can be a problem in winter with icy pavements and a lack of daylight. Last year, a patient at the clinic explained that she had solved this problem. She did not enjoy walking in the dark or going to the gym but her back responded well to a brisk 30 minute walk around her local shopping centre, including stairs and not the escalator. She felt stronger, fi tter and in control of her pain. This is an equally good solution for those on a walking to fi tness programme following a heart attack. The secret is to find an exercise routine that works for you, be it walking in the local park or shopping centre. Continuing to be active in the winter months helps us stay healthy.
LOOK AFTER YOUR FEET AND YOUR SHOES
Each foot is made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, 112 ligaments and a network of muscles, tendons, nerves and blood vessels. As we walk or run, the ground we land on hits us with an equal and opposite force to our body weight hitting the ground. Our feet act as shock absorbers to help dissipate these forces thus protecting our ankles, knees, hips and spine from damage. Our choice of footwear will help, or hinder, this task. Old worn out shoes may be the cause of injury so make sure that your favourite golf, tennis or running shoes are still up to the job of supporting your feet. Also remember to choose appropriate footwear for the winter weather conditions. We Physios always see an increase in wrist, shoulder, hip and knee injuries from winter falls on wet or icy streets.
SKI HOLIDAYS – BE PREPARED
Every year we see people with sad stories from eagerly awaited ski holidays that have ended in disaster. A fall while ski-ing resulting in a fracture or dislocation can bring a holiday to an abrupt end. These injuries often require the skills of an orthopaedic surgeon and physiotherapist to help regain function. The top 5 sites for snow sport injuries are: – knee, head, wrist/hand, ankle and shoulder. It makes sense to prepare for your holiday as increased fi tness levels can reduce the likelihood of injury.
Recreational skiers should think about doing at least 8 weeks of training prior to their ski holiday to achieve a suitable level of fitness. This may include a mixture of aerobic training such as cycling, running, rowing and the stepper machine; core stability and balance work such as Pilates; and strengthening exercises for the legs and upper body such as weight training. Remember that strong knee muscles – the Quadriceps and the Hamstrings – will help prevent knee ligament injuries and that good balance reactions can help prevent falls.
Learning to fall safely may also prevent injuries. Don’t fight the all, don’t straighten your legs as you fall and don’t try to get up until you have stopped moving. Aim to keep fi t and healthy this winter but please don’t ignore small niggles or injuries. It is well worth seeking advice from an experienced Chartered Physiotherapist as often simple exercises or stretches can solve the problem, preventing chronic problems from developing. Aim to stay fit and healthy this winter and all of the year!
McNaughton Physio Team Dec 2010