Skiiing, Tobogganing, snow shoeing…these are all the great things that come with winter. Shoveling the mess about is not one of our favorite pastimes. If done correctly (and with the right attitude) it can be a great anaerobic exercise. I often shovel extra driveways in my neighborhood because I feel like I’ve done a great workout. However, if you do it improperly, you will regret it later that day or the next morning.
Snow shoveling is very hard work and can put severe stress on your heart, as well as, stress and strain on your spine. So, as we aren’t going to wish it away, let’s be safe when we clear the white stuff from our driveways and walkways.
Here are 10 tips for how to keep your back healthy when shoveling snow.
- Pick the right shovel.
- Warm-up thoroughly.
- Pace yourself.
- Take breaks.
- Push the snow, do not lift it. Pushing puts far less strain on the spine than lifting.
- Switch off between snow shovelling right-handed and left-handed, so that you’re working different muscles.
- When the snowfall is heavy (1 foot in depth, let’s say), don’t try to clean right down to the ground with a single scoop. Instead, skim the top 6 inches off, then scoop up the bottom 6 inches. Otherwise, you could be hurting yourself by lifting too much. Remember that wet snow can be very heavy. One full shovel load can weigh as much as 25 pounds.
- Take breaks. Every 15 minutes or so, stand up straight, walk around, and drink water to avoid dehydration and overheating.
- Listen to your body and pay attention to your body’s signals, such as pains, shortness of breath, or chest discomfort.
- Use ergonomic lifting techniques such as:
Always face towards the object you intend to lift.
Bend at the hips, not the low back and remember to bend your knees and lift with your leg muscles, keeping your back straight.
Avoid twisting the back to move your object to its new location – always pivot your whole body to face the new direction.
Walk to the new location to deposit the item rather than reaching or tossing.
Take breaks. Every 15 minutes or so, stand up straight, walk around, and drink water to avoid dehydration and overheating.
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