As you age, your chance of having a fall starts to rise. So figuring out how to prevent yourself from taking a tumble is important regardless of the season.
But when winter barrels into town, it can be even more challenging to stay on your feet. Ice and snow can turn a simple errand run into an obstacle course filled with fall dangers.
Arm yourself against falls this winter
Slash your chances of ending up tail over teakettle this winter with these seven simple strategies for preventing falls.
1. Get your eyes checked:
When was the last time you updated your eyeglasses prescription? If it’s been more than 18 months, now is as good a time as any.
No matter the time of year, clear vision is critical for avoiding falls. But things can get even trickier in the winter months.
During the day, sun glinting off ice and snow can make it harder to see pitfalls. And combined with a less than accurate prescription, slipping and falling becomes a real danger.
In the evening, with the sun setting so early the deep shadows at dusk can make you less sure on your feet. Wearing an outdated prescription will only make things worse.
2. Keep moving:
With the temperature plunging outside, it’s so tempting to plant yourself on the couch, snuggle up under a blanket and watch television until spring. But that’s a terrible idea for many reasons, including that it makes you far more likely to become the victim of a fall.
You’ve heard the phrase move it or lose it before, right?
Well, when you become a couch potato losing it is exactly what you’re up against. The less you move, the less accustomed your body becomes to moving. And once you stiffen up, balance becomes a big issue.
The solution is to keep up with your regular routine despite the wintry weather.
3. Step up your workout game:
Regular exercise is important all year around. Ideally, you should be scheduling in a workout at least five days a week. And that can include activities that don’t take you anywhere near a gym such as dancing or walking.
But if you’re only getting a cardio workout, you could be setting yourself up for falls this winter. Because strength and balance are equally as important for staying on your feet.
Strong core muscles help you stay balanced and upright, as well as support your joints so they don’t give out on you.
Balance exercises alone can help reduce your chances of falling. (Check out our special report Prevent falls with 4 moves for better balance for a few to try.) But combined with strength exercises they can make recovering from a slip on snow and ice more likely so you can stay upright.
4. Get your vitamin D:
Having strong bones and muscles can help prevent you from falling in the first place. And if you should go down because of an icy patch, you’ll be far less likely to break something if your bones aren’t brittle.
Your body requires plenty of vitamin D to build strong bones and muscles. Without enough of this important vitamin, it can’t absorb the calcium it needs. And the result is wimpy bones and muscles.
But in winter it can be tough to get the D you need from the sun alone. Besides spending as much time as you can outdoors to encourage your body to make more of the vitamin, you might want to consider a supplement. Have your doctor check your D levels. And ask him if a supplement is a good idea for you.
5. Wear your socks wrong:
This is by far the strangest way to prevent winter falls on our list. But it’s also free, easy and reportedly very effective.
Researchers from New Zealand found that wearing a pair of socks over your shoes is a terrific way to prevent falls. It turns out the cotton provided more traction than the soles of many shoes.
While you’re probably going to want to skip this one for running errands, it could be useful in a pinch. Have to run out and grab the mail from the box or take out the trash? Slide some socks over your shoes for a safer round trip.
6. Watch out for cords:
From holiday lights and electric blankets to space heaters and humidifiers, during the cold weather months there are often extra cords on the floor you aren’t used to dodging. And forgetting they’re there could cause you to end up on all fours.
Taking a little extra time to plan your layout now, could save you from falls later. Whenever possible, lay cords close to the wall, rather than crossing the floor. And if a cord has to be in a heavily trafficked area, tape it down, or use a floor cord protector, until it’s time to unplug it.
7. Carry kitty litter:
Don’t let ice and snow keep you stuck in the house until spring. Ordinary clay kitty litter (the cheapest kind) could help prevent falls.
Fill a small reclosable bag with the litter and keep it in your purse, coat pocket or tote bag. Sprinkle a little on icy spots on the sidewalk or in parking lots missed by the plow. It will help give you the traction you need to avoid a fall.
Don’t let the fear of falling keep you stuck in the house this winter. These seven simple strategies can help you protect yourself against falls all season long.