Winter Health Hazard: How to Take Care of Your Heart & Back While Shoveling Snow by Dawn Taylor
This time of year in colder climates, heart attacks and back injuries spike. Shoveling snow is often the reason. Here are some tips to shovel snow safely:
- Warm up! Just like any strenuous activity or workout, do some dynamic stretching prior to shoveling. (Dynamic stretches are moving stretches such as high knees, walking lunges, etc., that get the muscles warm and loose.) Shoveling snow is heavy work, and the cold temperatures make it even harder to carry out as the heart works harder to stay warm. According to the National Safety Council, "Cold weather can increase heart rate and blood pressure. It can make blood clot more easily and constrict arteries, which decreases blood supply. This is true even in healthy people. Individuals over the age of 40 or who are relatively inactive should be particularly careful.”
- Shovel small amounts of snow at a time. Think of it as a layer-by-layer process when working through several inches.
- Take breaks during heavy snowfall. The snow will wait!
- Don’t hunch over as you scoop up the snow. Bend your knees as you lower your body (think of the start of a squat).
- After filling the shovel do not swing your body around. Dig the shovel in, then release the snow in front of you with the shovel close to your body, and not with arms extended out. If you do turn, you should do so with your whole body. “Avoid twisting the back to move the snow to its new location – pivot your whole body to face the new direction," states Spine-Health.com.
- Hire a teen or ask a neighbor to help. If you already have heart issues or back problems, snow shoveling is even more dangerous. It is not worth the risk.
If you do shovel snow and feel tightness in your chest or pain in your chest or arms, seek medical attention immediately.
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