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Safe Snow Shoveling


When the snow falls, make sure you remember to practice safe shoveling to reduce strain on the heart and avoid injury.

Wear proper clothing

"Wear layers to allow for better evaporation of perspiration. Use scarves, gloves, and warm socks to protect your nose, ears, hands and feet. Remember to wear a hat because a large percentage of body heat escapes through your head," said Kathleen Nelson, PT, Occupational Rehab Team Leader at Southcoast Hospitals Group. "Rubber-soled shoes also help to prevent slips and falls."

Warm up

It is also important to pace yourself and "warm up" before heading out, Nelson said. "You should stretch your arms and legs prior to shoveling the same way you would before exercising. Try back bends, hamstring stretches, marching in place and warm up walking to help modify cardiovascular strain. Take frequent rests to give your heart a rest."

Using a shovel of modest size and keeping the load light also helps to reduce stress on the heart. "The weight of the load lifted rather than the number of movements made is the reason for overexertion. Lightening the load reduces the strain on your stomach, back and abdominal muscles and reduces pressure and demand on the heart," she said.

Avoiding big meals, caffeine and nicotine prior to shoveling also reduces stress on the heart. Drink water often to keep the body hydrated.

Ergonomic tips

Push — rather than lift — when you can to reduce the strain on your heart, back and extremities.

"Don't twist or throw snow over your shoulder," she said. "This can easily injure your back or shoulders."



Shoveling with Safety

Dress properly for weather

  • Wear layers to allow for better evaporation of perspiration.
  • Use scarves, gloves and warm socks to protect your nose, ears, hands and feet.
  • Wear a hat to hold in body heat (a large percentage of body heat escapes through your head).
  • Wear rubber soled shoes to prevent slips and falls.

Food and Water

  • Avoid big meals prior to shoveling to reduce stress on your heart — this is not a good way to work off a big meal.
  • Avoid caffeine or nicotine which increase heart rate and can also cause extra stress on the heart.
  • Hydrate by drinking water often so that your body does not get dehydrated while working to keep you warm.

Pace your self

  • Stretch your arms and legs prior to shoveling the same as you would before exercising.
  • Warm up by walking or marching in place, an important means of modifying cardiovascular strain.
  • Take frequent rests to give your heart a rest.

Ergonomic Tips

  • Use a shovel of modest size. The weight of the load lifted rather than the number of movements made is the reason for overexertion. So use a lighter load more frequently. (Lightening the load reduces the strain on your stomach, back and abdominal muscles and reduces pressure and demand on the heart.)
  • Push — rather than lift — when you canto reduce the strain to your heart, back and extremities.
  • Use your legs if you must lift snow. Bend your knees and lift with your legs, rather than your back.
  • No twisting or throwing snow over your shoulder — this can easily injure your back or shoulders.

Remember to listen to your body, watch for ice, and ask for help when you need it!



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