Winter Outdoor Sports and Safety: What You Need to Know

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Part of staying healthy is remaining active, even when the weather is uncooperative. That’s why you’ll find so many Hoosiers enjoying outdoor sports this winter, even during snowy or icy conditions. When it comes to safety, winter elements can pose a safety risk, so it’s best to take precautions and follow safety guidelines.

What are the risks?

Favorite outdoor winter sports include cross country skiing, skating, snowboarding, snowmobiling, skiing, sledding, and even hiking. Although great for getting fresh air, keeping the body active and maintaining mental wellness, those sports also come with risks. Ice and snow mean that any activity involving slippery equipment could result in a head injury, sprains, or even a broken limb. Depending on your age and fitness level, such injuries could be dangerous. Furthermore, not dressing appropriately will leave you either too hot or too cold, both of which can be harmful. Lastly, people often forget to hydrate—water is vitally important, even in the cold—and may become dehydrated or worse.

Stay safe when the weather gets tricky

There are lots of ways you can keep both yourself and your family safe from common injuries associated with winter sports. Whether you plan to strap on your ice skates for the first time in a decade or are a pro when it comes to skiing, take the following precautions to maintain your physical health all winter long.

  • Check the weather: One important thing to do before heading out is to check the weather. Is there a storm warning? Ice? What’s the temperature and wind chill? All of these should determine when you go out and what you might wear. Dress in layers so that if you get hot, you can shed a layer or two to be comfortable. Sweating while you’re out in the winter cold can cause your body temperature to drop rapidly, possibly sending you into hypothermia. No fun. On the other hand, make sure you have enough clothes to stay warm, such as an extra layer of socks, waterproof shoes and a jacket, and some nice, breathable underlayers.
  • Find a buddy: When it comes to winter sports, it’s best to involve a friend. Going it alone could be dangerous if you sustain an injury or have a medical emergency. Bring a first aid kit along and stay close to one another so you can keep an eye on each other.
  • Warm up and cool down: If you’re engaging in a strenuous sport like downhill or cross-country skiing, it’s important that you do some warm-up exercises before heading outside. Stretch your arms, legs, back, and rotate through your joints. You should probably even spend more time stretching in winter than you would during summer months. This decreases your chance of injury because muscles tend to be tighter in colder weather, creating the perfect condition for strains, sprains, and falls. Afterward, a cool down involving gentle stretches can prevent sore muscles.
  • Use protective equipment: Wearing protective equipment is probably the best way to prevent accidents. Helmets are a must for anyone, including children, who participate in snowmobiling, skiing, and ice skating. Choose a helmet with a strong outer shell and an interior shock-absorption layer. This is not the time to worry about fashion; choose a helmet that protects. Make sure the helmet fits properly and is meant for the activity you’re planning. A helmet for snowboarding, for example, is different than one for biking.
  • Know your limits: Take breaks when you need to, become familiar with your surroundings, maintain proper form during activities like skiing and snowboarding, and don’t push beyond your experience level. It’s good to try new things, but when it comes to winter sports, safety should come first. Teachers and trainers are a great resource and paying for a class or two will pay off in the long run when you get to enjoy your new hobby without injuries.

Engaging in winter sports will help keep you healthy during the slower and lazier months of winter. Remembering our guidelines before venturing out into the cold will help make your health and safety possible.