No matter what your take on winter, the task of clearing snow from stairs, walkways and driveways will soon be upon us. Instead of dreading it, look upon it as an opportunity to get a surprisingly good workout. In fact, shoveling snow can be applied towards the minimum 150 minutes of activity adults need each week for health benefits.
Be forewarned however, many Canadians injure their backs and wind up with aches, pains and strains from poor technique. Just as you would proceed with caution, and ideally a little expert guidance, when using new equipment at the gym, today I’m sharing a few tips to help you ward off aches, pains and strains that often result from shoveling.
10 ‘Safe Shoveling’ Tips:
1. Are you physically up to the task? When shoveling snow, you are simultaneously pushing, lifting and lunging. If you have a heart condition or back injury, speak with your physician before shoveling.
2. Shoveling snow is a combination of aerobic activity and weight-lifting. Participate in a variety of activities year-round and you’ll find yourself better prepared for strenuous snow shoveling come winter.
3. As with any form of exercise, prepare your body with some gentle stretching before shoveling.
4. Invest in a good snow shovel. Look for a shovel with an open end that allow you to easily toss the snow off to the side. An ergonomic design may be preferable.
5. Dress warmly and in layers… you’ll likely work up a sweat and need to take off a layer or two.
6. Push the snow as you shovel. It’s easier on your back than lifting. Lift with your legs not your back.
7. Shovel snow while it’s fresh and still powdery – wet snow and ice are much heavier.
8. Use a small shovel to avoid lifting too much weight.
9. If you find yourself breathless, take a break. If you feel tightness in your chest, stop immediately.
10. Allow yourself plenty of time and take breaks as needed.