Snow shoveling can certainly be good exercise. But there are certain higher risk groups who should think twice before picking up that shovel.
If you’ve ever had a heart attack, if you have heart disease, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you probably don’t want to do the shoveling yourself. At the very least, you should consult your doctor before attempting it.
Smokers may want to resort to that snow blower – and certainly you should never smoke while shoveling. Tobacco smoke constricts blood vessels just as cold air does; the combination can be dangerous.
And if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you could be putting yourself at risk. You don’t want very strenuous snow shoveling to be the only thing you’ve gotten off the couch for in a month. It’s definitely something that needs to be worked up to.
Here are some tips to make shoveling safer:
- Always remember to dress warmly. You may be working up a sweat, but that doesn’t mean you’re immune to the effects of the cold.
- Don’t feel you need to get the whole driveway cleared in one shot. Take breaks every 15 minutes.
- Go inside for some hot chocolate, but don’t drink coffee. The caffeine may increase your heart rate and cause your blood vessels to constrict, just like smoking does.
- Keep hydrated. Drink plenty of water.
- And most importantly, know the warning signs of a heart attack. These may include chest pain, shoulder, neck or arm pain; dizziness, fainting, sweating or nausea; or shortness of breath. And if you think you’re having a heart attack, seek medical help immediately.
- When shoveling, it’s important to avoid back strain. The average shovel (loaded with 16 pounds of snow) ends up moving 192 pounds of snow, if you load your shovel about 12 times a minute. That’s almost 2,000 pounds being lifted in just over 10 minutes!
Here is how to shovel properly:
- Lift with your legs, not your back. Bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible so that the lifting comes from your leg muscles, not your back. Never bend at the waist. Step in the direction that you’re throwing snow. This will help prevent the lower back from twisting and will help alleviate any back soreness that you might typically experience the day after a hard shoveling job.
- Create some distance between the hands. This will give you more leverage and make it easier to lift snow.
- Pick up smaller loads of snow. It’s best to shovel by sections. If you’re shoveling deep snow (a foot or more), take it easy and shovel two or three inches off at a time.
- Do push. Don’t lift. Save your back and your energy by simply pushing the snow to the side instead of lifting the snow and throwing it off to the side.
via Snow shoveling safety tips – 19 Action News|Cleveland, OH|News, Weather, Sports.
Snow removal is more than just another necessary household chore. All that bending and heavy lifting can put you at serious risk for injury. Snow removal can be especially dangerous if you do not exercise regularly.
According to the 2009 US Consumer Product Safety Commission:
- Approximately 16,500 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries that happened while shoveling or removing ice and snow manually
- The most common injuries associated with snow removal include sprains and strains, particularly in the back and shoulders, as well as lacerations and finger amputations.
General Tips for Safe Snow Clearing
- Check with your doctor. Because this activity places high stress on the heart, you should always speak with your doctor before shoveling or snow blowing. If you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, consider hiring someone to remove the snow.
- Dress appropriately. Light, layered, water-repellent clothing provides both ventilation and insulation. It is also important to wear the appropriate head coverings, as well as mittens or gloves and thick, warm socks. Avoid falls by wearing shoes or boots that have slip-resistant soles.
- Start early. Try to clear snow early and often. Begin shoveling/snowblowing when a light covering of snow is on the ground to avoid dealing with packed, heavy snow.
- Clear vision. Be sure you can see what you are shoveling/snowblowing. Do not let a hat or scarf block your vision. Watch for ice patches and uneven surfaces.
Tips for Snow Shoveling
- Warm-up your muscles. Shoveling can be a vigorous activity. Before you begin this physical workout, warm-up your muscles for 10 minutes with light exercise.
- Pace yourself. Snow shoveling and snow blowing are aerobic activities. Take frequent breaks and prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or other signs of a heart attack, stop the activity and seek emergency care.
- Proper equipment. Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength. Do not use a shovel that is too heavy or too long for you. Space your hands on the tool grip to increase your leverage.
- Proper lifting. Try to push the snow instead of lifting it. If you must lift, do it properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent, and back straight. Lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist. Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it. Holding a shovelful of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine. Never remove deep snow all at once. Do it in pieces.
- Safe technique. Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that stresses your back.
via Prevent Snow Shoveling and Snowblowing Injuries -OrthoInfo – AAOS.