Walk like a penguin to stay safe on ice

WDBJ 7 – by Shane Dwyer

ROANOKE, Va. – Have you slipped and fell on ice yet? I know my neighborhood was completely iced over Sunday morning. If you have, and even if you haven’t, we’ll let you in on a little secret. According to Tablet Infographics, the best way to walk on ice is to waddle like a penguin.

Yes, the birds that can’t fly know a thing or two about walking on ice. After all, they do live in Antarctica, the continent where the world’s lowest temperature was recorded, and the continent with 90% of the worlds ice. It’s cold and icy there, that’s for sure.  

The secret isn’t actually a secret, it’s all in the physics. You may have learned about center of gravity and friction in school. It’s what you need to be thinking about to help prevent falls.

Icy conditions mean there’s less friction. That’s why car tires slide and boots slip. Your weight is split between your two legs when you walk normally. That means every step you take is supporting half your weight, but its doing so at an angle instead of straight up and down.

When it’s icy out and there isn’t much friction, that weight shift wants to keep moving in the direction you’re stepping. The lack of friction allows that to happen, which is why you can slip.

This is where the penguins come in. By waddling and taking one step at a time, you keep the center of gravity directly over your font leg.

The Injured Workers Insurance Fund also recommends the penguin waddle method, adding that pointing your feet slightly outward also helps.

If you do fall, the IWIF said relaxing your muscles and keeping your hands out of your pockets will help cushion the fall. It’s also best to try and land on your side or rear instead of your knees, wrist or back.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee recommends not carrying any heavy loads or backpacks while walking on ice. Not all ice can be seen — black ice usually forms as a thin layer and can be nearly impossible to pick out.

Slipping on ice is no joke. Dr. Robert Atkins, founder of the Atkins Diet, slipped on ice, fell, and later died in New York City. He was rushed to the hospital and doctors removed a blood clot to release pressure on his brain, but he died eight days later.


One thought on “Walk like a penguin to stay safe on ice

  1. Ridiculous. You don’t have to waddle like a penguin. Just pick up your foot, place it straight down somewhere forward of the other one, and repeat.

    You slip on ice because you’re pushing yourself forward with the grounded foot rather than picking it up and moving it. Pushing forward with the grounded foot makes better progress, but it requires traction.

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