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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Heitzmann, MSPT,

Shoveling Tips to Keep you Safe this Winter

Shoveling snow is a way of life for most of us during the winter months. It can be a great form of outdoor exercise while enjoying the beauty of a new snowfall! However it can also be a major source of stress and injury. Shoulder injuries, back/neck injuries and heart conditions are common occurrences during winter, often related to shoveling.

Follow these quick and easy guidelines to help ensure a successful and injury free winter while shoveling away Mother Nature's Snowfall.

  1. Warm up First - Before going outside, warm up for 5-10 minutes, whether it be on a bike, a treadmill, or walking up/down stairs for a few minutes. It's also a good idea to do big arm circles forward and back to loosen up the shoulders.

  2. Dress for Success - For shoveling this means wearing layers to stay warm and dry, and waterproof boots if possible. Choose loose clothing that you can shovel comfortably in.

  3. Use a Good Shovel - Today there are many types of winter shovels that provide great ergonomic options to move snow safely.

  4. Clear Snow Early and Often - Get out there early when the snow is still light and fluffy, and clear away a few inches at a time if possible. The deeper the snow and the longer you wait, the heavier and harder it will be to move.

  5. Pace Yourself - Know your activity limits. Shoveling out in the cold will tire you out much more quickly then going for a walk on a warm day! Work in 10 minute intervals if necessary to stay safe. If you feel yourself getting extremely tired, fatigued, sweaty, etc., then it is time to go inside and take a break. No shoveling job is worth a serious injury.

  6. Hydrate!! - Often when it's cold out we don't feel thirsty and don't feel the need to hydrate, however this could not be further from the truth. Hydration is essential when we are exercising outdoors. Our muscles and tissues need hydration to remain injury free and optimal for exercise.

  7. Be Careful - Pay attention to your surroundings and watch for icy patches to avoid falls.

  8. Push More and Lift Less - Pushing snow to the edge of the driveway is much less stressful on the shoulders, back/neck and heart. When you do have to lift and toss snow with your shovel, only lift an amount that you can manage easily, bend your knees, keep your back straight, and gently toss the snow directly in front of you. Avoid twisting and tossing as this creates the greatest strain and potential for back injury.

  9. Avoid Caffeine and Nicotine - Prior to going outside, it's best to avoid these substances as they have a tendency to increase the heart rate which can increase stress on the heart when out in the cold.

Happy Winter and stay safe out there!

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