The months of constant snowfall and freezing temperatures seems endless once the excitement of the first snowfall fades, and you become weary of traversing black ice and other slippery streets.
My first experience with an icy sidewalk included a slip, smack, and heavily bruised hip—and I’m sure many can commiserate with even greater, more painful falls on slick surfaces during winter months.
To avoid another winter walking catastrophe, you might want to consider shifting your approach and your gait.
Look to the Arctic to Keep Yourself Upright
There’s one group that knows how to both walk and thrive in the iciest of locales: penguins. Though these black-and-white birds may not be able to fly, they are exceptionally good at traveling across expanses of ice—and they tend to keep themselves upright better than humans.
After analyzing why penguins are able to walk without falling on the iciest of terrains, Tablet Infographics found that there’s a certain waddle and shift in body weight that we, too, can use. Rather than carefully placing one foot in front of the other, we’re better off confronting icy sidewalks with a penguin-like shift of our weight.
Practice That Penguin Gait
When we walk, whether on ice or unfrozen surfaces, both of our legs support our bodies. As our legs split with each step, we keep ourselves perfectly upright (for the most part). Ice, however, poses a different challenge: we become wobbly, weak-kneed deer who can barely hold any of our own weight. Our feet, in our normal gait, push off from the heel and have the possibility to skew outwards, sending our entire body into a butt-first landing.
Penguins, on the other hand, have a lower center of gravity, which keeps their body weight perpendicular to the surface. If we lean forward, shifting our own center of gravity over our leading leg instead, we find greater balance. By turning our feet inwards as penguins do, we lessen the risk that they will slide out from underneath our weight.
Practice leaning forward and waddling like a penguin, and you’ll find yourself better balanced as you traverse your slippery work parking lot or dangerous walkways. Yet, as the CDC notes, ice is a substance to be avoided due to its high risk of injury. After all, penguins do tend to slide on their stomachs when they fall, which isn’t what you’ll want to do after a hard slip.