As the winter and cold months are approaching, many seniors start to slow down and tend to go out less and ultimately move their bodies less. This can be the perfect combination to allow muscle weakness to set in. Between moving less, outdoor household chores, and weather conditions; there are many ways to stay active and keep yourself safe during this time of year.
When winter months hit New England, people tend to stay inside more, become less active, which could lead to falls. There are a number of ways to combat this without leaving your home during these cold times. Several body weight exercises can be performed in your home for people of every skill and disability level. Physical therapists can take an assessment and provide you with a great home exercise program tailored for your specific needs and skill level. In my experience, patients that tend to be more active using specific home exercises overall fall less frequent. Some general exercises that most people are able to do would be sit to stand transfers from a chair, straight leg raises in bed, going up and down one step, lunges performed at your counter are just a few options. For a more specific plan contact a physical therapist.
As leaves are falling and snow may be coming there can be more work around your house. These winter activities of raking leaves and shoveling snow can be very taxing on your body. Prior to going out in the elements, make sure you are having a proper meal, drinking plenty of water and performing light stretching. Also when performing these activities do smaller, more frequent rounds of the task, instead of leaving one daunting, big clean up. In my experience, I have seen many patients come in with injuries related to shoveling and raking when they leave everything for one big clean up. A good recommendation would be to go out a few times during the snow to keep up with it while there is less accumulation as opposed to try to shovel 12 or more inches at one time. This can be a hazard to pulling muscles and, more importantly, heart attacks.
Finally, with the weather conditions getting worse in the winter, proper preventative measures can be made in order to avoid falling. A few ways to prevent falls would be to salt and sand walkways and driveway before and after snowfall. This small amount of traction can help avoid a slip and fall injury. Another way would be to purchase attachments for your shoes which have small spikes or grips which will allow you to walk over ice with significantly less chance of falling.
These few tips and preventative measures can keep you safe this winter. If there are questions about any of the content above, I can be contacted at Amity Physical Therapy in Branford at 203-433-4683.
Michael Demetriades is a Branford resident and Associate Clinical Director of the Branford office of Amity Physical Therapy. He is a graduate of Quinnipiac University and holds a doctorate degree in Physical Therapy. He is also a Certified Acupuncture Practitioner (CAP). The practice was founded 13 years ago by Michael Dow MSPT and CEO/Clinical Director and has three area offices: Woodbridge, Branford and Hamden. For more information, visit amitypt.com.