Snow shoveling can be part of our regular chore routine in winter. It is important to do it correctly and carefully to avoid injury or even death! It is estimated that there are 15,000 snow shovel related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms annually. The biggest risks of shoveling are soft tissue injuries from falls, back injuries, and heart attacks.
Shoveling snow is also hard work! There are hundreds of pounds to move in our walkways. For older adults and those not in great physical shape, shoveling is a bigger risk! To shovel safely, try a few of these removal hacks and guidelines to make the job easier and safer.
Warm up. Cold, tight muscles are prone to injury. Warm-up for 5 minutes by jogging in place and stretch your back and arms to get your muscles warmed up.
Pick the right shovel. Select an ergonomic shovel that is lighter with a contoured and adjustable handle designed to reduce back bending and decrease lifting. You can also purchase shovel attachments to add to your current shovel for better hand position or reducing back strain.
Stay steady. Wear good boots with tread or sprinkle sand or kitty litter over areas for better traction to avoid slipping and falling while shoveling.
Use proper shoveling technique. Push the snow instead of lifting it, and be sure not to overload the shovel. If you must lift, bend your knees and lift with your legs (not your back!) and avoid twisting or throwing snow.
*You can also try applying cooking spray on your shovel to prevent snow sticking!
Pace Yourself. Shoveling small amounts of snow frequently is less strenuous than shoveling one large pile. If the snow is getting deep, fast then don’t wait till the end to shovel! It is better to schedule yourself to shovel a little every 1-2 hours.
Take breaks. Every 15 minutes or so, stand up straight, walk around and stretch, and drink water to avoid dehydration and overheating.
Listen to your body. Pay attention to your body’s signals, such as pains, shortness of breath, or chest discomfort and stop shoveling if necessary- call 911 if you think you are having a heart attack.
Think Outside the Box. If the snow is light and fluffy, try using a leaf blower to remove it from areas! If you know the snow is coming, lay down a plastic tarp over sidewalks or walkways and pull it away when the flurries are done. You can also try using snow melt mats that are available.
Try a snowblower. Used correctly, this can lessen the stress on your back and move a lot of snow quickly. Use your legs to push it while keeping your back straight and knees bent. Be smart about your method. Start in the middle and throw snow towards edge, U-turn, and come back so you don’t have to adjust the chute as often and don’t need a second pass.
Don’t shovel. Some people should ditch shoveling duties! If you are over 50, out of shape or have a history of a heart condition then plan to have someone else do it for you.
For those fit enough to shovel you can get quite a workout doing it and burn up to 400 calories per hour along with winning the best neighbor award for helping others. Be careful with all this extra work by following safety precautions to ensure you have a happier winter season and active spring to come!