Falling into Mindful Movement
This bitter cold Northwestern Ontario has seen in the last few weeks makes it almost impossible for us not to rush to our vehicles, or run to the bus stop to avoid waiting outside for as long as possible. This is a very relatable scenario for most of us however, what we may not think of is this actually increases our risk of having a fall and/or sustaining an injury.
Think about someone with mobility issues, a senior, or a service provider who works outside all day. Without taking into consideration improper footwear, chronic pain, recent surgery, or any distraction from walking safely in the winter conditions, it’s easy to see how a fall can happen. Being exposed to these types of conditions can impair all of our senses. Now add hurrying and being rushed into the equation. Rushing outdoors in the morning to get to work, to a doctor’s appointment, or catch the bus will only make you very uncomfortable if you forget the necessities to fight the cold. This will make your movements faster and less controlled because we are trying to get in to that warm vehicle or building. Maybe you are rushing because you’re having trouble breathing due to it being so cold and windy, or you forgot your gloves in the car or your toque on the bus. When our body moves faster than our brain, we don’t look before we leap. The reason these are important scenarios is to realize that a lack of preparation for being outside or moving without intent or planning your next step can trigger falls or injuries in extremely cold weather.
When we discuss falls prevention most of the time we consider it a topic for older adults or the aging population. Let’s revisit this and consider everyone is at risk for falling. Especially when we are moving faster and that some of the time our vanity or pride may get in the way of us being properly prepared for the conditions outside. We’ve all heard the comment “it’s not that cold outside” coming from the person not wearing a toque or gloves when the wind chill is making it feel like -45 Celsius. This lack of preparation creates no benefit and only puts the person in extreme risk for not only falling, but many other injuries or ailments.
So the real question… How can we lower our risk of falling or injury when extreme weather hits?
Well here are a few ideas you may consider:
- Proper footwear is always a must even if you’re only outside to bring the garbage out or just running out to the car or shed
- Dress extra warm in layers so you don’t feel the need to rush out of the cold
- Face masks, balaclavas, and neck warmers will slow the air from entering our lungs so quickly and give it a chance to warm up
- Take the time to make sure you have everything you came with or everything you need
- Look before you leap by analyzing the surface before you step
- Be mindful of your movement by making each one a step towards reducing your risk of falling
- Have a routine or checklist for extremely cold weather
These are just a few ideas of many you can try to reduce your risk and make your movements count. Protecting our infants, toddlers, and children from injury is something that comes naturally to almost everyone with kids, and yet sometimes we don’t take the time to protect ourselves. Just being aware of the conditions doesn’t make you prepared for them. Take the time to take care and prepare and stay warm and safe.
Attilio Castellani is Registered Kinesiologist and Community Health Worker at NorWest Community Health Centres.
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