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.


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