Every year thousands of people injure their backs, or worse, by shoveling snow. Snow removal may be a necessity, but it is also a physical activity that should be carefully undertaken. Here are some tips to help keep you safe.
- Because this activity places high stress on the heart, speak with your physician first. If you have a medical condition, are elderly, or do not exercise regularly, don’t pick up a shovel until you’ve been given the green light. Consider hiring someone to do this chore for you.
- Clear snow early and often. Begin when a light covering of snow is on the ground to avoid trying to clear packed, heavy snow.
- When shoveling, always protect your back and bend your knees. Avoid excess twisting.
- Don’t shovel too soon upon waking. A slipped disc injury is more likely to occur in the morning due to the build-up of fluid in the disc from lying down all night.
- Dress appropriately. Light, layered, water-repellent clothing provides both ventilation and insulation. Don’t forget head covering, as well as moisture-resistant gloves and warm socks.
- Avoid falls by wearing shoes or boots that have slip-resistant soles.
- Warm up your muscles. Shoveling is vigorous activity. Before you begin, warm up your muscles for 10 minutes with light exercise.
- Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength level. Do not use a shovel that is too heavy or too long.
- Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks and replenish fluids to prevent dehydration. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other signs of a heart attack, seek immediate emergency care.