Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tips for Shoveling Snow Safely

As I prepare to go out there for the first big dig of the winter, I thought I'd share a piece I once wrote for Yahoo Voices on the topic.  It's widely known that shoveling snow is a very strenuous physical activity and many people can do much harm to their bodies if they do it wrong.  Here are some common sense, but good to be reminded of, tips for shoveling snow...

Shoveling snow can be great exercise, but is also very strenuous.  Clearing snow with a shovel for as little as 30 minutes can burn up to 200 calories, but the laborious task coupled with extreme weather conditions can be very dangerous to your well being.  Cold air makes breathing more difficult and puts more of a strain on the body.  Working in such cold conditions not only puts a undue exertion on the heart and breathing apparatus, but extreme temperatures can cause hypothermia, or dangerously low body temperatures, to the unprotected person.

People who should not shovel snow:

People who are at extra risk for a heart attack and other physical dangers while shoveling snow include: smokers, those with a history of heart disease or heart attack, those with high blood pressure or cholesterol levels, and those living a sedentary lifestyle.

Tips for shoveling snow:

Dress warmly - Always dress warmly for the cold weather.  Dress in layers and keep all extremities covered, especially hands and ears.

Take frequent breaks – With such stress on the body, shoveling snow requires frequent breaks so that the body can endure the sometimes long job of clearing driveways and walkways.  Go inside to warm up every fifteen to twenty minutes or so and drink plenty of water.

Try to avoid caffeine before or during snow cleanup.  Caffeine increases your heart rate and should not be consumed before or during snow removal.

Before shoveling snow, warm up your muscles by stretching and/or walking in place for a few minutes.  Doing so will help to avoid any undue strain on the muscles.

In order to avoid serious injury to back muscles, shoveling snow properly is of the utmost importance.  The average shovel-full of snow is 16 pounds and moves about 192 pounds of the stuff.  This is done approximately twelve times per minute, amounting to about 2000 pounds of snow being moved every ten minutes. 

Ways to shovel snow properly:

-           Lift the shovel with your legs and not your back.  Keep your knees bent so the heavier strain is on your leg muscles.

-          Do not bend at the waist.

-          Always step in the direction to which you are moving the snow.  This prevents you from twisting the back, causing unnecessary stress on those muscles.

-           Keeping your hands at length from each other helps you gain some leverage and helps to avoid undue stress on the wrong muscles.

-          Keep your feet apart from one another and tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the shovel.

Following these precautions while clearing snow will allow you to finish the job without the risk of serious injury or even death.  The most important thing to keep in mind when clearing snow is to listen to your body.  Happy shoveling!


Personal Experience

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