Warm Up This Winter to Avoid Injury

When the snow flies, many of us are eager to hit the slopes or go skating at the neighbourhood outdoor rink. But even those who aren’t winter sports enthusiasts can remain quite active outdoors in the winter months thanks to the need to shovel snow from sidewalks and driveways.

Keeping active is good for your body, but any winter activity comes with an increased risk of injury. Being out in the cold weather causes a person’s blood flow to move to their core, and this reduces circulation in the extremities. Less blood flow to the muscles in the limbs can compromise the muscle’s endurance, as well as the ability to produce power and strength.

This reduction in circulation also causes the temperature within the extremity to lower, which causes the muscles, tendons, and connective tissues to be less pliable and elastic – making these tissues more susceptible to tearing and over-stretching. It’s more likely you’ll be sore after being active outside in the winter, but you’ll also be more likely to suffer strains or sprains, as well.

Before you strap on the skis, lace up your skates, or pick up your snow shovel, take a few minutes to prepare. Dress in warm and appropriate layers to retain body heat and prevent moisture from building up on your clothing. Always make sure you’ll have access to water during your activity. Whatever the outdoor activity, take time to warm-up your body for the activity to come.

Snow Shoveling

It can feel like any other chore, but shoveling snow requires a lot of strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance. Because you’re engaging muscles in your lower back, upper back, shoulders, core, and legs, it can feel like quite a workout.

Snow shoveling is one of the most common causes of back injury during the winter months, so warm up your body before you head outside. But avoid static stretches — any stretch held for an extended period of time — when your muscles are cold. Static stretches are great for after you’ve finished shoveling (or doing other types of activities), but research shows that static stretches won’t help avoid injury if they’re performed immediately before the activity.

Instead, do a general warm-up by walking around the block a couple of times, going up and down the stairs in your home or doing gentle lunges, squats, or high-stepping – you will know your body is warmed up when you’ve started to sweat a little bit.


You can prepare your body for skating in much the same way. Try a general warm-up, like a walk around the rink, to get your body going. Follow this with some dynamic stretches, like squats or side-stepping exercises. Start by skating slowly, using long and careful strides, then increase your intensity progressively until you’re skating at your usual speed.

Skiing and Snowboarding

For a general warm-up, walk or jog around the hill before putting on your ski,s and perform lunges or squats and gentle standing trunk twists. If you’re an experienced skier, do one short, easy run before upping the ante, and remember to ramp up the intensity slowly. This is especially important at the start of the ski season when you’re building your endurance level.

When you head back into the lodge for hot chocolate, make sure to take the time to stretch — as you should for any kind of exercise at any time of year. For activities that involve a lot of leg strength — like skating, skiing and snow shoveling — try a forward bend, whether seated or standing, to stretch your hamstrings and the muscles in your back. To stretch your quadricep muscles and hip flexors, keep one hand against the wall and grab your right shin behind you, holding for 30 seconds before switching sides.

These are just a few stretches, exercises, and ideas to help prevent you from getting injured. To learn more about avoiding injury during winter activities, chat with a Summit physiotherapist at your next appointment. New clients are always welcome, and a doctor’s referral isn’t needed.