Winter Is Here, so Walk Like a Penguin

Kelli Engen

The heart of winter has arrived! With the frigid temperatures and ice covering the ground, we want to remind you to keep safe when enjoying the outdoors. Walking like a penguin may help prevent injuries related to slipping and falling during our Wisconsin winter weather.  

Slips and trips are very common this time of year. Slips happen when there is not enough traction between the shoe and walking surface, such as the ground. Trips happen when a person’s foot contacts an object in his/her way or drops to a lower level without warning, causing the person to be thrown off-balance. Slips and trips can cause a fall easily. Winter-weather related falls can happen to anyone. Taking extra care and “walking like a penguin” can prevent slips and trips. Penguins walk flat-footed, take short steps, and use their arms for balance.

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in Wisconsin. In 2014, there were 2,179 emergency room visits because of fall-related injuries; 906 of those visits occurred during what many consider “the winter months” of November-March. No matter our age, we are all at risk for falls and have more risk with ice and snow: 70 percent of ER visits for falls were for people under the age of 65. Most slips, trips, and falls can be prevented with care and safety measures.

Here are some ways you can prevent winter falls

•Wear proper footwear, or snow cleats, for better traction on slippery surfaces. Change into dry dress shoes after you are inside.

•Point your feet slightly outward, keeping your center of balance under you.

•Take slow, small steps. Build in extra time when traveling.

•Carry only what you need, and use a bag or pack instead of your arms. 

•Dress warmly, but make sure that your sight and hearing are not blocked. Bright or reflective gear will help others see you.

Remember to walk like a penguin to prevent weather-related falls so you can enjoy winter weather activities. For more winter safety tips please visit cdc.gov/Features/WinterWeather.