Safe Shoveling – and Other Options For Those Who Opt Out

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February 13, 2014

So, the meteorologists got it just right – right to the minute in my area. Snow started falling at 7 PM and we got about a foot of snow. Many of you will be out shoveling, so here are some tips to help you avoid joining the thousands of people who end up in emergency rooms or calling their doctors with injuries. Common problems include back or other muscular strain, frostbite and heart attacks.

A full shovel of wet snow can weigh up to 25 pounds, so shoveling snow for any amount of time is like getting a workout at the gym. If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, have had heart issues, are overweight or out of shape, please adjust your shoveling, if any, to the degree of exercise you are used to. When your extremities get cold, the blood vessels tighten up and may put additional strain on the heart. Also, try to avoid using caffeinated drinks to keep warm, as they will raise your heart rate even higher than the exercise otherwise would.

Some basic tips for safe shoveling for all ages:

– Start slowly to warm up. Hydrate throughout as you would for other exercise.
– Pay particular attention to keeping your extremities warm to protect against frostbite – that includes your nose, ears, hands and feet. Wear waterproof boots. If you can’t feel your fingers and toes, go inside!
– Dress in layers so you can remove them as needed as you warm up.
– Use a shovel that, including the blade and handle, are about elbow height so that you don’t have to stoop to shovel. Plastic shovels are lighter than metal ones. The handle, in particular, should be plastic or wood because metal gets too cold.
– Stand with your feet slightly apart, bend your knees and lift with your legs to avoid straining your back. Your back should be relatively straight as you lift and throw. Do not twist to throw the snow – that’s the way to strain your back. Your feet should be facing in the direction of the snow-throwing – turn your feet if you need to change direction. Never throw the snow over your shoulder — that’s only done for show!
– Only fill the shovel 1/2 or less if a full shovel feels heavy to you. Your muscles will thank you tomorrow!
– Tighten your abs when lifting.
– Switch from right to left sides frequently – share the burden on both shoulders.
– Take lots of breaks – snow is very heavy.
– Afterwards, STRETCH!!!! and continue to stretch for the next several days.

If you won’t be shoveling, consider these routines from prior posts that you can do indoors with little or no equipment. Stay warm and safe!

Use Jody and Danielle’s commercial break ideas

Or Troy’s posture routine

Or, my very own quick upper body workout, that I used last night to avoid going to the gym and getting stuck in the snow.

If this is February, can Spring be far behind?!