Shovelling Snow, The Do's and Don'ts

Shovelling Snow, The Do's and Don'ts

Winter is here and we have certainly had some significant snow fall over the last couple of weeks.

Snow shovelling is hard work and can put stress on your heart, as well as stress and strain on the rest of your body. Snow shovelling could be considered as strenuous exercise and it is important to be prepared. So, when you are moving snow on your property or at work, consider these tips to make the job easier and safer.

  • Talk to your doctor about snow shovelling and your current health status before the winter season arrives.
  • Think twice about doing your own snow shovelling if you:
  • have had a heart attack or have other forms of heart disease.
  • have high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels.
  • are a smoker.
  • lead a sedentary lifestyle.

Clothing:

  • wear multiple layers and cover as much skin as possible.
  • wear a hat and scarf, make sure neither block your vision.
  • wear mittens as these tend to be warmer than gloves.
  • wear boots with non-skid/no-slip rubber soles.

Pick the right shovel:

  • Be sure that your shovel has a curved handle, this will allow you to keep your back straighter when shovelling.
  • Use a shovel with an appropriate length handle. The length is correct when you can slightly bend your knees, flex your back minimally and hold the shovel comfortably in your hands at the start of the "shovelling stroke".
  • A plastic shovel blade will generally be lighter than a metal one.
  • Sometimes, a smaller blade is better than a larger blade. Although a small blade can't shovel as much, it will prevent you from trying to pick up too much snow at once.

Warm-up thoroughly:

  • To be sure your muscles are warm before you start shovelling walk or march in place for several minutes before beginning.
  • Cold, tight muscles are more likely to be injured than warm, relaxed muscles.

Pace yourself and take breaks:

  • Start slow and continue at a slow pace.  A good suggestion is to shovel for 5-7 minutes and then rest for 2-3 minutes.
  • Stand up straight and walk around, stretch your back by placing your hands on your hips and leaning back.
  • Drink lots of water to prevent dehydration and overheating.

Push the snow, do not lift it:

  • Pushing puts far less strain on the spine than lifting.
  • If you must lift the snow, lift it properly.
  • Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight.
  • Lift with your legs. Try not to bend at the waist.
  • Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it.
  • When you grip the shovel, make sure your hands are at least 12 inches apart. By creating distance between your hands, you increase your leverage and reduce the strain on your body.
  • Keep your arms in close to your body. Holding a shovel of snow with your arms outstretched can stress your spine.
  • Switch off between snow shovelling right-handed and left-handed, so that you are working different muscles.
  • Never remove deep snow all at once.  Shovel an inch or two; then take another inch off. Rest and repeat if necessary. 
  • Remember to move your feet rather than twisting.
  • Remember that wet snow can be very heavy. One full shovel load can weigh as much as 25 pounds
  • Shovelling snow is a strenuous activity that is very stressful on the heart.
  • Exhaustion makes you more susceptible to frostbite, injury and hypothermia.
  • Stop shovelling and call 911 if you have:
  • discomfort or heaviness in the chest, arms or neck
  • unusual or prolonged shortness of breath
  • a dizzy or faint feeling
  • excessive sweating or nausea and vomiting

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