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Safe Snow Shoveling

Shoveling snow is not the highlight of wintertime for most people. Aside from being an annoying chore, your back and muscles ache after an afternoon spent outside moving snow from one side of the driveway to the other. Knowing that more snow will fall some time soon and you'll just have to repeat the whole process over again is enough to make you want to buy a snow blower!

On the plus side, shoveling snow is an invigorating outdoor activity – plus, it's a great workout. Remember, though, there is a proper way to shovel snow that can minimize the health risks associated with snow shoveling, the least of which is a sore back.

Falling Snow
Snow shoveling is considered to be a moderate form of exercise. Tests done to evaluate the intensity level of snow shoveling have found that, at times, it can even be classified as vigorous exercise. Additionally, the cold air can make it more difficult for your body. The wintery temperatures can impede your ability to breathe as well as to work. Unfortunately, many people forget this and just get right to shoveling at a fast and furious pace, which is a recipe for disaster.

Experts have also found that the number of fatal heart attacks tend to increase after a heavy snowfall. Many feel that these heart attacks can be directly linked to snow shoveling. Shoveling can cause a sudden increase in your heart rate and blood pressure. If you're already at risk of a heart attack (if you have high blood pressure or cholesterol, smoke or have a history of heart attacks), then you should probably pass the shovel to someone else.

The Snow is Flying
To help avoid doing any damage to your back, it is important that you make sure you are clearing your driveway using the right techniques. If you can, then avoid actually lifting the snow. Instead, push the snow to the side. When you can’t help but lift the snow, then stand with your feet hip distance apart. Keep the shovel close to your body. As with all lifting, always bend from the knees – not from the back or torso.

To help provide some extra back support, tighten your abdominal muscles as you lift the snow. It is best to throw the snow in front of you; avoid tossing it to the side or over your shoulder. If that’s the only place for it, then turn your feet so that your body is facing the direction the snow will be going.

Playing Safely in the Snow
Here are some more tips to help make sure your shoveling days are safe.

  • Avoid consuming stimulants, like caffeine and nicotine before going out. They can place more stress on your heart by increasing your heart rate and causing blood vessels to narrow
  • Prevent hypothermia by dressing in layers. To help avoid overheating, remove the layers as you work up a sweat
  • Speaking of sweat, make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Since shoveling is exercise, there is a risk of becoming dehydrated
  • Before you get started, do some stretches or go for a short walk to warm up your legs, arms and back. This will help reduce your risk of injury and get your body to work more efficiently (which means you'll be done sooner)
  • When buying a shovel, look for one that has a smaller blade that will pick up less snow and therefore place less strain on your body
  • Finally, start off slowly and pace yourself. Take a break whenever you feel you need one. Always listen to your body – if something doesn't feel right, then stop shoveling

It also doesn’t hurt to ask for help – two people can always do the job faster than one. And just remember: spring will be here soon enough.

Hammer Visit our forum for some more useful information on winter chores.