As the winter and cold months are firmly upon us, many seniors start to slow down and tend to go out less frequently and ultimately move their bodies less. And this has never been more evident than the last 11 months since the onset of COVID-19. This can be the perfect combination to allow muscle weakness to set in. Between reductions in movement and outdoor household chores, combined with worsening weather conditions, fall prevention during the winter is important to think about. There are many ways to stay active and keep yourself safe during this time of year.
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 have far less chance to fall.
Some general exercises that most people are able to do would be:
- Sit to stand transfers from a chair
- Start by scooting close to the front of the chair. Then lean forward and place your hands on your thighs. Rise up to standing using your hands for support.Sit back down using your hands for support on your thighs and then repeat
- Straight leg raises in bed
- While lying on your back, raise up your leg with a straight knee. Keep the opposite knee bent with the foot planted on the ground.
- Going up and down one step
- Start by standing in front of a step/step stool with both feet on the floor.Step forward and up the step with your target leg and use that leg to lift your body weight up onto the step with the other leg.Once both feet are on the step, step back down backward with the other leg first so that your target leg does the work to lower your body back down to the ground. Then return the target leg to the floor next to your other leg.You may need something to hold on to for balance support.Repeat this on the same side.
- Lunges performed at your counter
- Position yourself next to the counter and place your closer hand on the surface to use for balance support only. Step one foot forwards and, keeping your knee over your foot, sink down towards the ground, bending both legs. Hover the back knee above the ground.Keep the toes all pointed forwards. Do not let your front knee go beyond the toes of the same leg. Avoid pressing back up through your hands.
For a specific treatment plan tailored to your needs schedule an appointment with your favorite therapist!
With snow falling this time of year, there can be more work around your house. These winter activities shoveling snow and winterizing your house 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 storm 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.
In the chance of an injury that occurs during the winter months or anytime for that matter, physical therapy is a great option that requires no prescription or referral from your doctor. Injuries will improve quicker when treatment intervention occurs sooner in the process.
Michael Demetriades, DPT, is a licensed physical therapist and supervisor of Amity Physical Therapy in Branford, CT. Specializing in the treatment of neurological conditions, orthopedic rehabilitation, and balance dysfunction, Michael enjoys working with patients of all ages and ability levels. For any questions regarding these tips for staying healthy during the winter months, Michael can be reached at (203) 433-4683. CLICK HERE TO SCHEDULE AN EVALUATION