Injury-Proof Your Next Snow Shoveling Chore

Like ham and eggs or sunshine and summer, with winter comes snow and shoveling the white stuff. Snow shoveling can be a good source of aerobic exercise, but it doesn’t come without risks. Improper shoveling can cause injuries to your back and shoulders. And the American Heart Association says the risk of heart attack can increase while shoveling since cold temperatures and physical labor make the heart work harder. This may be partially due to the sudden demands that snow shoveling puts on the heart, especially for those who live a fairly sedentary lifestyle.

Take note: if you are at risk for heart attack, you need to take special precautions. The National Safety Council and the National Institutes of Health recommend the following tips for safe snow shoveling:

 

  • snow shoveling tips
    [Credit: pavelgr/Thinkstock] Protect your heart if at risk for a heart attack: you recently had one and/or coronary stents, heart disease history, high blood pressure or cholesterol, smoker, sedentary lifestyle. Get your doctor’s permission beforehand. Take frequent breaks and pace yourself.
  • snow shoveling tips
    [© Robeo | Dreamstime.com] Call 911 if you have: chest tightness or pain, pain in your jaw or pain radiating down your arm. Experts recommend calling an ambulance versus driving to the hospital. Specially-trained emergency teams can assess your condition, stabilize you and activate a treatment team.
  • snow shoveling tips
    [© Dolgachov | Dreamstime.com] Avoid injury while shoveling. Don’t lift too much snow, use a smaller shovel or partially fill a larger one. Bend from the knees with a straight back and sit into the motion; avoid twisting movements. Listen to your body and stop if you feel pain.
  • snow shoveling tips
    [© Eurobanks | Dreamstime.com] Shovel snow when it’s fresh. It’s easier to move than when it’s wet and packed. Push the snow rather than always lifting.
  • snow shoveling tips
    [© Maszas| Dreamstime.com] Ears, nose, hands and feet need extra protection and are at risk for frostbite after as little as 10 minutes in sub-freezing temperatures. Dress in layers that can be removed as needed. Protect your face, since cold air makes working and breathing harder and adds strain on your body.
  • snow shoveling tips
    [© Ocusfocus| Dreamstime.com] Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is as serious in the winter as in the summer. Also, avoid eating before you shovel.
  • snow shoveling tips
    [© Scukrov | Dreamstime.com] Avoid caffeine and nicotine as they are stimulants that can increase your heart rate and cause your blood vessels to constrict, putting extra stress on the heart. Too much caffeine, alcohol or sugary drinks can all cause dehydration.
  • snow shoveling tips
    [© Pojoslaw| Dreamstime.com] Warm up before you start by marching in place or walking for a few minutes. Stretch your arm and leg muscles after you’ve warmed up. Warm muscles are less likely to be injured.