It’s the beginning of February and, as expected in the city where I live, and perhaps where you live too, there’s snow and ice on the ground. For your safety—especially in postmenopause—it’s important to know how to prevent falls and fractures on snow and ice.

In postmenopause when levels of estrogen are very low you are at higher risk of diseases related to lack of estrogen, like heart disease, osteoporosis, and dementia. Walking is very good for the heart, bones, and brain. However, walking in snowy and icy conditions poses many risks and may turn out to be bad for your bones (fracture) and your brain (concussion) if you happen to fall.

A new analysis shows that in Toronto, between 2006 and 2015, there were almost 30,000 emergency department visits and 2,800 hospitalizations from falls on snow. The median age of people who visited emergency departments was 51 years, and the median age of those who were hospitalized was 59 years. Forty-six per cent of emergency department visits were for falls considered urgent or potentially serious, with about 8% considered life-threatening. Injuries most often affected the knee and lower leg, head, and the elbow and forearm. I know a speech therapist who’s been helping a lady regain her speech ability for 1.5 years following a fall on the ice, and she didn’t hit her head on the ground, she just fell heavily on her behind!

Also, if you fall from a standing position and break a bone you will be diagnosed with osteoporosis. We want to avoid this diagnosis for as long as we can!

There are many factors that contribute to slipping, falling, and getting injured.

  • Footwear (high heels/shoes that don’t fit well)
  • Type of surface you walk on (going down a hill, sleek driveways)
  • Type of footwear (lacking slip-resistant soles)
  • Biomechanics of your walk including muscle strength, posture, balance (medications like sleeping pills, antihistamines, and cold and flu meds can affect balance) *
  • Illness (vertigo, dementia)
  • Unsafe behaviour (don’t walk in the dark)
  • Temperature and snow or ice precipitation (freezing and thawing, black ice)

It is a Catch-22. You need, should, and want to walk year-round but it could be dangerous in snowy, icy conditions. What should you do?

Here are some recommendations for how to prevent falls and fractures on snow and ice:

  • Wear boots or shoes that have good grip
  • Wear ice cleats (take them off as soon as you walk indoors to prevent slipping)
  • Walk slowly, take small steps, with your feet pointed outwards.  Walk like a penguin — watch this cute (and informative) short video from Alberta Health Services
  • Walk straight, don’t lean forward
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets
  • Don’t text or talk on your phone and walk at the same time
  • Use handrails on stairs and ramps
  • Don’t carry heavy things that can make you lose your balance (wear a back pack)
  • Find an indoor mall in your area and walk fast and safe indoors (10,000 steps a day safely!)

The American Heart Association recommends that adults accumulate at least 150 minutes (2.5 hrs) of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week.

If, despite all these tips, you can’t walk during the winter, here are some other physical activities for you:

  • water aerobics
  • dancing (ballroom or social. Or in the kitchen!)
  • tennis (single or doubles)
  • biking (spin class, stationary bike)
  • swimming laps
  • aerobic dancing
  • jumping rope

There are lots of physical activities you can choose from even in the northern winter.

Don’t isolate yourself at home and don’t not allow the winter blahs to set in. Get out and move in the safest way you can. If you can find company to join you, even better!

I wish you a happy, exercise-full, and safe winter!

P.S.
For information from Osteoporosis Canada on types of exercises for healthy bones, and to learn about strength training, balance, aerobic physical activity, and posture awareness, visit
https://osteoporosis.ca/bone-health-osteoporosis/exercises-for-healthy-bones/.

P.P.S.
Do you know that last year I started a group for women 40+ willing to care for their own health and well-being? Drawing on my expertise and many years of experience in women’s health in general—and menopause in particular—I started the WHIM (Women’s Health In Midlife) Network.  For only $8/ month you can become a member and enjoy lots of relevant, science-based, and up-to-date  information on women’s health in midlife, with:

* I recommend that you download and read “Too Fit to Fall or Fracture” from Osteoporosis Canada.

Let’s break the menopause taboo. Let’s talk about menopause.

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