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Safely enjoy outdoor winter activities

By RYAN BYERS PAC

While some people like to enjoy the cold winter months hibernating indoors, you may enjoy cold-weather sports and outdoor activities, however, we want you to be safe. Cold weather, limited daylight, snow, and ice can all pose safety risks. A little preparation and planning can keep you and your family safe this winter while enjoying skiing, snowboarding, skating, sledding, and running outdoors.

1. Train your body for the increased activity. Your body takes longer to warm up in the cold winter air. If you don’t warm up your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints, you are more likely to get injured. It is also a good idea to get in shape before you begin winter sports, then you are prepared for the increased activity.

2. Dress for the conditions and the activity. When enjoying outdoor activities, it is important to dress in layers. Layering your clothing will help hold in the warmth – wool and moisture-wicking fabrics are recommended. Also, keep your head, feet, and hands properly covered. If snow or rain is in the forecast, make sure your shoes and coat are waterproof or all-weather material. Investing in quality outdoor clothing gear is a great investment if you enjoy winter sports.

3. Use common sense. Before you plan an outdoor activity, check the weather forecast. Winter weather can be unpredictable and deadly. Avoid situations that will put you at added risk and plan for the worst-case scenario.

4. Drink plenty of water. Winter sports don’t get you overheated in the same way indoor sports do, but hydration is just as important, and it can help prevent hypothermia.

5. Watch out for ice. Ice isn’t just a hazard on lakes and ponds in winter. If you’re on a hike, walk, or run, be careful of icy sidewalks and trails. You can also find equipment to put over your shoes to help grip ice to avoid a fall and a potential injury.

6. Share your plans with someone. If you are heading out alone, you should let someone know exactly where you are going. With the shorter days, darkness can sneak up on you. Even jogging or sledding can become dangerous when it gets dark. Make sure you wear bright colors when you are out, and keep a small flashlight or headlamp with you. By sharing your plans, if you don’t return home when expected, your friends will know exactly where to find you.

7. Wear sunscreen. Even though it’s winter, you don’t want to forget your sunblock. Especially if you are in higher altitudes – your exposure to ultraviolet rays is greater. The snow also creates a reflection from the sun that can increase your chances of sunburn. It is also a good idea to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare of the sun.

By following these tips, you are better prepared to enjoy your outdoor sporting activities this winter. Make sure to be on the lookout for frostbite, too. The most common body parts to get frostbite are cheeks, ears, nose, fingers, and toes. If your skin becomes red and swollen and you feel stinging or burning, it is time to get inside and get out of the cold. Once you have experienced frostbite, you are more likely to have it happen again, so be careful.

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Ryan Byers is a certified physician assistant with UPMC Susquehanna Sports Medicine, 1705 Warren Ave., Williamsport. For more information, call 570-321-2020.

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