Every winter we hear tragic stories on the news about snow shoveling injuries. Heart attacks, falls, fractures, strains and bruises can all result from shoveling snow without proper preparation and care. Here are a few ways to minimize risk of a shoveling injury.
Shoveling snow is a combination of aerobic activity and weight-lifting, so it should be treated with the same initial stretches one would do before exercising to warm up muscles, stimulate blood flow and reduce injury risk.
Here are a few easy stretches* to do before starting to shovel snow:
- Slowly bend forward and touch your toes while keeping your knees straight & repeat twice more to stretch your lower back and thigh muscles
- Slowly twist your body as far to the left and then right as you can & repeat in each direction twice more to stretch your back and trunk muscles
- Slowly shrug your shoulders up toward your ears and back down & repeat twice more to stretch your shoulder muscles
- Hold on to a wall and bend your front leg while putting your back leg out behind you & repeat twice more to stretch your hamstrings
- Get down on your hands and knees and slowly extend your straightened right arm up to the ceiling while at the same time extending your straightened left leg up to the ceiling and after lowering that arm and leg, extend the straightened left arm up to the ceiling while at the same time extending the straightened right leg up to the ceiling & repeat twice more with each pair to stretch your lower back
*Before starting any exercise or stretching program, consult your physician to ensure that the exercise or stretching is appropriate for your fitness level and health condition
Take Regular Breaks
One of the biggest reasons why people suffer heart attacks and muscular strain while shoveling is because they try to do too much at once and don’t stop to take a break.
Shoveling snow is essentially lifting wet, heavy free weights over and over again. If a person was lifting weights at a gym, common sense would dictate that he or she would take a rest at regular intervals to re-gain their breath, slow their heart rate and enjoy a sip or two of refreshing water.
The same logic should be applied to shoveling snow. At least every 5-10 minutes, take a minute or two to stop and take a few deep breaths, sit down if needed and grab some water to re-hydrate the body.
Many people have long driveways or paths to shovel and/or they live in a place that gets a lot of snow dumped on them every year. Other people have health limitations that make it difficult to get out and shovel snow, if not downright impossible. People such as these should consider enlisting help to get their snow shoveled.
There are a few types of help available:
- Ask family members to help
- Ask the kids or teens down the street to help
- Call a neighbor for help
- Hire a professional service
If the thought of asking family, neighbors or kids for help is a difficult pill to swallow, consider offering an exchange of services such as snow shoveling in exchange for baked goods, sewing skills, homework help, a gift card or a small tip. This will make snow shoveling more enticing for them as well.
Get An Ergonomic Shovel
In summary, shoveling snow is an arduous task. But with a few easy tips, one can turn a daunting chore into something more manageable and safe.