With winter time here, inevitably snow will also arrive. Here are some tips to help keep you safe and pain free as you shovel that snow.
Shoveling snow is an aerobic and a weight lifting workout. Like any workout activity, you need to dress appropriately. Dress in layers, and wear clothes that will allow you to move easily when lifting and moving the snow. The majority of your body heat is lost through your head, so wear a hat. Wear gloves that will keep your hands warm but also allow you to grip the shovel easily. Pick boots that will keep your feet warm and dry and that have soles which will provide traction on potentially icy surfaces to prevent falls.
As with any exercise, you also need to warm up and stretch prior to shoveling. A short walk or marching in place to get the blood circulating to the muscles is helpful. Do not eat just prior to shoveling as most of the blood is directed to your stomach to digest foods. Avoid smoking and caffeinated drinks that constrict blood vessels. Do drink plenty of water to stay hydrated as you shovel.
Proper body mechanics are essential when shoveling. Grip the shovel with your hands apart to distribute the weight and give you better leverage. Maintain good posture by standing with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend at the knees, NOT your waist, and tighten stomach muscles as you lift the snow. Move your feet to turn rather than twisting at the waist to move the snow to the side. Keep the shovel close to your body. Holding the snow filled shovel out in front of you puts a strain on your back. Shovel small amounts of snow at a time, and if possible, try to shovel fresh snow before it becomes compact and heavy. Pace yourself and take breaks as needed.
Other things you may consider are to purchase a plastic shovel which is lighter than a metal shovel or a shovel that is designed specifically for pushing snow. If possible, consider purchasing a snow blower to avoid lifting snow altogether!
If you must shovel the snow, stop and seek assistance immediately if you feel sharp back pain, chest pain, or shortness of breath.
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