That first snowfall every year is so beautiful. There is something about the quiet white blanket draped over trees, bushes and lawns that is just so peaceful. Then the months roll by and its just not fun anymore. Driveways and sidewalks must be cleared after snowfalls. This is when that pretty snow shows her evil face. Thousands of Americans find themselves in the Emergency Room every winter thanks to shoveling snow. A recent study had over 11,500 patients in the ER. Another recent study documented 1,647 Americans dying from this activity. It’s time to exercise some common sense before you charge outside to shovel.
Shoveling Snow is like Exercising at the Gym
Lifting a snow shovel and throwing snow can be likened to pushing around weights at the gym. As your heart rate increases in the cold it can be like running on a treadmill. Shoveling puts quite a demand on your cardiovascular system. If you have heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol or other medical conditions you might want to consider having the snow moved professionally.
Physical Common-Sense Ideas
- Eat Light- don’t consume heavy food before you head outside. This only adds stress to your heart.
- Don’t Smoke- this can change your circulation.
- Caffeinated Beverages- any caffeine can stimulate your heart rate and cause the constriction of your blood vessels.
- Stay away from alcohol- this can trick you into thinking you are not cold or are not working as hard as you are.
- Layers- anytime you head outdoors consider dressing in layers.
- Comfortable- wear clothing that is easy to move in when shoveling or pushing a snowblower.
- Stocking cap- you lose a lot of body heat through your head.
- COLD air- consider breathing through a scarf to warm up that icy air entering your body.
- Boots- not only will this help keep your feet warm it will help with your footing.
- Gloves- in fact, don’t hesitate to buy some mittens. Keep those fingers warm as they grip the shovel.
The Ergonomics behind a Snow Shovel
- Smaller shovel-consider using a smaller shovel to lighten the load when it comes to either pushing or lifting the snow. This will be easier on your body.
- Ergonomics-a curved handle might help you keep your back straighter reducing stress on your spine.
- Plastic or metal- don’t you think a plastic blade might be lighter than metal? Research this before you buy, after all, the snow is heavy enough.
Know your Body
- Push don’t lift-handling wet, heavy snow if very, very hard on your lower back.
- Watch your footing-pay attention to the surface and how slippery it is. Falling contributes to those ER statistics.
- Take breaks often- it doesn’t have to be done immediately. Take your time, listen to your body.
- Know when something is wrong- STOP shoveling! If you have chest discomfort, shortness of breath, or any discomfort in your back, arms, neck, jaw or stomach it might be a sign of cardiac stress or even a heart attack. Stop and consider calling a medical professional immediately.