Snow Shoveling 101
Too Much Snow!!
How to survive shovelling the white stuff this winter.
A 2011 study published in the Clinical Research in Cardiology revealed that shoveling snow actually does increase the risk of a having a heart attack. The study looked at 500 people and found that 7% started experiencing symptoms of heart problems while shoveling snow. The cardiologists conducting the Canadian study felt that while 7% is significant, there could be as many as double that number given the fact that the patients may not have connected their heart problems with snow shoveling.
"While heart attacks may be the most serious consequence of shoveling snow, there are other even more common health risks including dehydration, back injuries, pulled muscles, broken bones and frostbite. But the good news is there are ways to safely shovel snow," said Martin B. Tirado, CAE, Executive Director, Snow & Ice Management Association.
Today, on the brink of the blizzard conditions in the northeast, the Snow & Ice Management Association (SIMA), the national nonprofit organization representing the snow removal industry, is suggesting these tips for safe snow shoveling:
TIP #1: Stay on top of the snow. No we aren't suggesting that you make snow angels but when there's a heavy snow, the best advice is to stay ahead of the storm. SIMA recommends that to prevent snow and ice from adhering to the sidewalk or street, clear the snow every few inches instead of waiting for the snow to stop falling before you head outdoors.
TIP #2: Wear breathable layers. Layering is typical cold winter weather advice. We suggest wearing layers of loose clothing so you can peal a layer off if you get hot. Avoid wearing heavy wools, manmade materials or other materials that don't allow perspiration to evaporate. Better choices are cotton and silk.
TIP #3: Watch your feet. No you aren't on Dancing with the Stars, but nonetheless, you need to pay attention to what's on your feet when heading outdoors to shovel snow. SIMA suggests wearing quality outdoor winter wear such as waterproof boots with good traction. Good traction is critical to ensuring that you don't slip and fall.
TIP #4: Take a few minutes to stretch. Shoveling snow is a workout so you need to stretch to warm up your muscles particularly because you are shoveling snow in the cold weather. Stretching before you start shoveling will help prevent injury and fatigue.
TIP #5: Push don't lift. Sounds like something a high school wrestling coach may say but if you push the snow to the side rather than trying to lift the snow to remove it, you exert less energy thereby placing less stress on your body.
TIP #6: Drink up! Water that is. SIMA recommends taking frequent breaks and staying hydrated. You should drink water as if you were enduring a tough workout at the gym or running five miles.
TIP #7: Don't play in traffic. Sometimes people get so focused on the task at hand they don't pay attention to their surroundings. When shoveling snow near streets, pay attention to the traffic since vehicles may not have good traction in the snow and ice.
TIP #8: Call and text. We're not suggesting that you make calls and text while shoveling snow, but it is important to have your cell phone on you so you can make a call in event of an emergency.
Following these tips will help ensure that you survive and thrive through winter. Additionally, snow shoveling can present the potential for spasms, strains, sprains and other health problems, warns the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).
Bending and twisting when tossing a shovel of heavy snow can aggravate lower back discs, according to ACA. In addition, the overall physical exertion required for snow shoveling, without proper conditioning, often results in painful injuries.
ACA advises you to be prepared and follow these tips for exercise of the snow shoveling variety:
If you must shovel snow, be careful. Listen to weather forecasts so you can rise early and have time to shovel before work. Layer clothing to keep your muscles warm and flexible.
Shoveling can strain "de-conditioned" muscles between your shoulders, in your upper back, lower back, buttocks and legs. So, do some warm-up stretching before you grab that shovel.
When you do shovel, push the snow straight ahead. Don't try to throw it. Walk it to the snow bank. Avoid sudden twisting and turning motions.
Bend your knees to lift when shoveling. Let the muscles of your legs and arms do the work, not your back.
Take frequent rest breaks to take the strain off your muscles. A fatigued body asks for injury.
Stop if you feel chest pain, or get really tired or have shortness of breath. You may need emergency medical assistance.
After any of these activities, if you are sore, apply an ice bag to the affected area for 20 minutes, then take it off for a couple of hours. Repeat a couple of times each day over the next day or two.
If you continue to feel soreness, pain or strain after following these tips, it may be time to give us a call.