SUNDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Winter sports provide a great way to enjoy the cold weather and to stay in shape, but can pose risks if you don't take proper precautions, an expert warns.
"Though some of us like to stay home indoors during the cold winter months, there are actually several sports that can help you take off the holiday pounds," Dr. Shepard Splain, chairman of the orthopedics department and director of the sports medicine division at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in New York City, said in a hospital news release.
"Skiing, skating and snowboarding are not only fun, but they are great cardiovascular exercises for anyone looking to be outside," Splain said. "Still, these activities are often more dangerous due to their high speeds and hard surfaces. The best way to stay safe and enjoy the entire season is to be prepared."
Begin your conditioning weeks in advance by doing core strengthening, stretching and some form of calisthenics, Splain said. Be sure you have the proper equipment and that it has been checked and tuned. Always wear appropriate protective gear, such as helmets and eyewear.
Dress appropriately and make sure you can adapt your clothing to suit changing weather conditions, Splain advised.
Know and adhere to your limitations, especially if you're on unfamiliar terrain. Take it easy early in the season and wait until you are back in form before tackling more challenging conditions.
Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water or sports drinks. Many people do not realize how quickly they can dehydrate in cold weather. Never drink alcohol when doing winter sports. Alcohol slows response times and affects your decision-making abilities.
Don't ignore injuries. If you have a hard fall, seek immediate medical attention if it is anything worse than a scrape or bruise, Splain said. Symptoms of common winter sports injuries such as concussions or knee damage can start out mild before getting worse over the course of a day.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers more winter sports safety tips.