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Snow Shovelling

Digging Your Way Through Winter

Shovelling your driveway or sidewalk can be a strenuous workout and especially unsafe for the unfit. Every winter people hurt themselves shovelling snow. Injuries range from minor aches and pains and pulled muscles to fatal heart attacks. Shovelling puts a lot of stress on the body in a short period of time.

When you  start shovelling snow, it’s like picking up weights. So, if you’re older or out of shape, there’s a greater chance of hurting yourself. Even people who regularly exercise can find shovelling strenuous.

Shovelling causes a quick increase in the heart rate and blood pressure.

You should stop shovelling immediately if you experience:

  • shortness of breath
  • heavy sweating
  • any kind of pain.

Anything that’s not normal is a warning sign!

Those most at risk during snow shovelling are:

  • people who have had a heart attack
  • people with a history of heart disease
  • individuals with high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels
  • smokers
  • individuals who lead a sedentary lifestyle.

Tips for shovelling snow:

The Basics

Snow shovelling can be compared to weight lifting and in some cases the aerobic demands are similar to working out on a treadmill. So… to help your body function on demand, consider the following tips:

  • Be heart smart! Don’t eat or smoke before shovelling snow. Avoid caffeinated beverages. These are stimulants and may increase heart rate and cause blood vessels to constrict.
  • If you experience pain of any kind, stop immediately and seek assistance
  • Pace yourself during shovelling activities. Take a five minute break for every 15 minutes of shovelling. Drink plenty of water. Snow shovelling is strenuous work and it is important to re- hydrate your body often.
  • If the ground is icy or slick, spread sand or salt over the area to help create foot traction. Be aware that some areas may be uneven and could cause you to slip trip or fall.

Dress for Success!

  • Dress in layers. Wear clothing that is easy to move in.
  • Wear a hat – a great deal of heat is lost through the head
  • Proper boots are essential. Wear boots with a good tread to help maintain your balance.
  • If it is cold, wear a mask or scarf that will warm the air before you breathe it.

Technique – Technique – Technique

  • Shovel early and often because snow weighs more after it compacts or partly melts
  • Warm up with stretches and light exercise. Then start with light loads on the shovel to open up your arteries gradually.
  • Lift as much of the weight as possible with your legs, keeping your back straight and sparing the arms of unnecessary work. For example, try pushing some of the snow rather than lifting it.
  • If you must lift, squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Do not bend at the waist or throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that stresses your back. Keep the shovel close to your body rather than extending your arms.
  • Use a shovel with a shaft that lets you keep your back straight while lifting.
  • Many people injure themselves by using a shovel with a shaft that is too short, causing the back to bend more to lift the load. A shovel that is too long makes the weight at the end heavier.