The Right Way to Shovel Snow

Use these tips to shovel snow safely without strain to your heart and body.

By | Hub Health |

shoveling snowLet’s hope this isn’t us tomorrow. Photo via Shutterstock.

We already told you about the very real risks to your heart when shoveling snow. But up until today, there’s been very little risk because there’s been very little snow. Unfortunately, as of this evening, that will all change. Brigham and Women’s Hospital cardiologist Dr. Daniel Forman offers tips on the right way to shovel out from this blizzard in order to keep your heart, muscles, and back healthy.

  • Stretch your arm and leg muscles as you would before any exercise.
  • Warm up your cardiovascular system with a light activity like walking before you shovel. It may be helpful to do warm-up exercises indoors to fully prepare your body for the more intense activity to follow, in order to avoid cardiovascular strain.
  • Use a shovel with a small blade. It is safer for your heart as well as your back and joints to lift smaller and more frequent amounts of snow, rather than haul a few, heavy shovelfuls.
  • Find a shovel that is suited for your height.
  • Pace yourself. Start out shoveling slowly, and don’t try to clear the entire area at once.
  • Take frequent breaks to give your heart a rest. Use the time off to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.
  • Shovel regularly during a long snowfall, rather than waiting until the snow has accumulated to large, heavy amounts that could put more strain on your back and heart.
  • Try to push the snow rather than lifting and throwing it.
  • If you must lift, do it properly. Spread your hands along the handle for more leverage, stand with your feet hip-width apart, and bend at the knees, not at the back.
  • Do not twist or throw snow over your shoulder. Scoop and throw in a forward motion to avoid causing lower back pain.
  • Know the symptoms of heart disease and stop immediately if you experience symptoms such as chest pain, shoulder, neck or arm pain, sudden shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, palpitations, and/or sweating or nausea. Those symptoms, especially when they persist or worsen, can be indications of a heart attack and it may be necessary to seek emergency medical assistance quickly.