January 2017 – Rehab and Wellness Connection

Frigid temperatures can dampen anyone’s enthusiasm for the outdoors. However, living where we do, we like winter activities too and whether your activities are for fun – skiing, ice fishing or snow mobiling or your activities include shoveling and snow plowing or your job is performed outdoors – the following can help you stay safe and warm

Check the forecast before heading outside. The risk of frostbite is less than 5 percent when the air temperature is above 5° F, but the risk rises as the wind chill falls. At wind chill levels below minus 18° F, frostbite can occur on exposed skin in 30 minutes or less.

The key is to prepare before you even go outside. Dress in layers. Dressing too warmly is a big mistake. Activity generates a considerable amount of heat – enough to make you feel like it’s much warmer than it really is. The evaporation of sweat; however, pulls heat from your body and you feel chilled. Dress in layers that you can remove as soon as you start to sweat and then put back on as needed.

First, put on a thin layer of synthetic material, such as polypropylene, which draws sweat away from your body. Avoid cotton, which stays wet next to your skin. Next, add a layer of fleece or wool for insulation. Top this with a waterproof, breathable outer layer.

When it’s cold, blood flow is concentrated in your body’s core, leaving your head, han ds and feet vulnerable to frostbite. Wear a thin pair of glove liners under a pair of heavier gloves or mittens lined with wool or fleece. Put on the mittens or gloves before your hands become cold and then remove the outer pair when your hands get sweaty.

Consider buying your boots or exercise shoes a half size or one size larger than usual to allow for thick, thermal socks or an extra pair of regular socks. And don’t forget a hat to protect your head or headband to protect your ears. If it is extremely cold, consider wearing a scarf or ski mask to cover your face.

As odd as it may sound, it is important to hydrate with plenty of water when exercising or working outdoors as well as to protect your skin and eyes from UV rays. You should wear sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and a lip balm with sunscreen. Protect your eyes from snow and ice glare with dark glasses or goggles.

While shoveling snow can be good exercise, it can also be hazardous for optimistic shovelers who take on more than they can handle. Just a few safety tips:

  • Individuals over the age of 40, or those who are relatively inactive, should be especially careful.
  • Everyone should avoid shoveling after eating or while smoking.
  • Take it easy. Snow shoveling is a weight-lifting exercise that raises your heart rate and blood pressure. Warm up before starting the job and stretch both before and after shoveling.
  • If possible, shovel only fresh snow – it is easier to shovel than wet, packed-down snow.
  • Push the snow forward rather than lifting it out of the way; pick up only small amounts when needed. Your back will thank you!
  • As with any lifting activity, use your legs, not your back. Legs should be bent and back straight. Bend and “sit” into the movement, allowing large muscle groups to do most of the work.
  • Never work to the point of exhaustion. Take frequent breaks.
  • If your chest feels tight – stop immediately.

We at Clear Lake Physical Therapy and Rehab Specialists want to help you stay healthy and active to enjoy our winter wonderland! If you have any questions about how physical therapy might be an added benefit in your life, please call us at 715.262.4103 or stop in and see us at 417 3rd Avenue in Clear Lake.