Winter Safety Tips to Enjoy the Outdoors

The 2014 Winter Olympics are an inspiration to participate in outdoor sports. Taking some winter safety precautions will help ensure your experiences are memorable for the right reasons—fun, adventure and good company—rather than getting hurt. Winter sports-related injuries send a lot of people to the emergency department for sprains, muscle strains, dislocations or fractures, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Winter Safety Precautions

Simple preparation can help you avoid injury when you ski, snowboard or sled. Since cold muscles, tendons and ligaments are prone to injury, begin by briefly warming up and stretching. Then, gradually increase the intensity of the outdoor activity. This will help your body adapt to the cold environment. These additional winter safety tips can also help reduce the risk of getting hurt:

  • Use the proper equipment, making sure it’s in solid working condition.
  • Check the forecast. Be aware of pending storms or dramatic drops in the temperature.
  • Dress properly for upcoming weather. Stay dry and warm with several layers of loose, water- and wind-resistant clothes.
  • Use protective gear–a helmet, goggles and gloves–for skiing, snowboarding and sledding.
  • Get familiar with the surroundings. Note obstacles and hazards like rocks, trees and ice.
  • Stay on marked trails; remain alert.
  • Follow park/trail rules.
  • Don’t go out alone; don’t wander from your group.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
  • You can still get sunburned in cold and cloudy weather, so cover up with clothing, apply sunscreen to exposed skin and wear close-fitting sunglasses.

Most importantly, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Make sure your fitness level is appropriate for the activity and stop when you feel tired. Go inside during the day to let your body rest and warm up occasionally. Many injuries happen at the end of the day, when people overexert themselves to finish that one last run.

Winter sports offer many benefits, like exercise, fresh air and social interaction. Practicing some basic winter safety with proper preparation and sturdy equipment can counteract risks so you’ll get the most from your adventure.

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