Snow shoveling: it’s one of the most dreaded and necessary winter chores, and possibly the most dangerous. Known to cause heart attacks, back injuries and slipping accidents, shoveling can seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from all of these things.
Whether you realize it or not, snow shoveling is essentially a workout; and you wouldn’t just jump into a workout without fueling your body and warming up. Before beginning to shovel:
- Stretch and warm up
- Take plenty of breaks
- Eat a small, light meal or snack and drink water.
- Complete a short warm-up activity to reduce the chance of injury.
Where there’s snow, there is ice and frigid temperatures to go along with it. To protect yourself from muscle strains, frostbite and hypothermia, dress in layers and cover as much skin as possible. Prevent falling accidents by wearing anti-slip shoes.
Use Proper Technique
Even if you have warmed up, your body may experience unnecessary strain if proper technique is not used. Consider the following tips:
- Begin shoveling early. If you shovel shortly after the snowfall, piles will not be as compact and will be easier to remove.
- Lift with your legs, not your back. This means you should be bending at the knee (not the waist), sitting back as you dig into and lift up the snow pile.
- Keep your hands approximately 12 inches apart. This will improve leverage and reduce the amount of strain put on your body.
- Do not try to shovel more snow than you can manage. It may help you to use a small shovel or have a rule of thumb that you only fill larger shovels halfway. Another technique to prevent overfilling is to move the piles in layers, starting from the top, rather than the bottom.
- If you can, push the snow instead of lifting to move it.
- Walk the snow to the new destination, as opposed to throwing it from your shovel.
You Know Best
Even with all of the previously listed precautions, it is important to listen to your body. If you feel too cold or fatigued or experience pain, take a short break. If the complication is more severe, you may have to find someone to complete your shoveling for you.
If you do not regularly exercise or have conditions that might lead to difficulty shoveling, consult your physician before taking on this task. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you experience chest pain or unusual shortness of breath.
There are several bits of advice I give people who are going to go out and shovel snow this winter.
Remember, it's a very strenuous activity and it causes a lot of strain on the muscles including the heart muscle. I always tell people you want to make sure you warm, up don't just go out and start shoveling snow first thing in the morning.
Make sure you do short bursts of activity. You want to take frequent breaks and drink lots of water.
If you have any symptoms, such as chest pain or unusual shortness of breath, make sure you go in and call 911.