MELROSE PARK, Ill. (January 8, 2015) – Tread lightly and don’t get too confident; winter is officially here and sidewalks are slippery. About 1 million people take a tumble every year in the U.S. and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 20,000 people die annually due to fall-related injuries.
Additionally, falls account for approximately 15 percent of job-site accidents, adding up to almost 15 percent of all workers' compensation costs.
“Many falls can be successfully avoided or the impact minimized by applying a few basic strategies,” said Mike Ross, author of “The Balance Manual” and exercise physiologist at Gottlieb Center for Fitness, part of the Loyola University Health System.
Ross teaches balance classes year-round at Gottlieb, primarily to those ages 50 and older. Gottlieb Center for Fitness was one of the first exercise centers located in a Chicagoland hospital that was also open to the public for membership.
Ross focuses on preventing injury by being proactive and taking control.
Here are Ross’ recommendations on how to navigate the rest of winter and to cross over safely to spring:
Check your footwear. Examine your shoes and boots. How's the traction? Is it time for a new pair? Better traction can help keep you more stable on icy surfaces.
Keep a shovel and salt in your house. The reason you have a shovel and salt indoors is so you don't have to walk on a slippery sidewalk. Having them in the garage defeats the purpose.
Check the railings. If you have railings leading up to your front door, check to see if they are sturdy. If you slipped, would they support you?
Bring a cell phone when you leave the house. If you fall, it can sometimes be hard to get up. Carrying a cell phone whenever you go out can bring peace of mind.
Slow down. Allow extra time if it's slippery out. It's when you hurry that you end up pushing the limits of your sense of balance. Also, keep in mind that being a little late is better than rushing and causing a fall.
Ask for help. If you have to walk across an icy sidewalk or parking lot, try to find a steady arm to lean on. Most people are happy to help an older person navigate a slippery walkway and you just have to ask.
Have a plan. When you are going out, ask yourself, "If I slipped and fell here, what would I do?"
Strengthen your legs. Strong leg muscles can help you steady yourself if you slip. And if you do fall, they make it a lot easier to get back up. You should exercise your legs regularly to keep them strong. Try walking up and down your stairs repeatedly or do a set of 10 squats out of a chair a couple of times per week.
The Gottlieb Center for Fitness offers a 55,000-square-foot facility with a variety of exercise equipment, two pools, indoor track, basketball court and more than 80 exercise classes a week to encourage an active, healthy lifestyle. It is located within Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park, located in the western suburbs of Chicago.