Snow Shoveling Safety

Shoveling snow can be a vigorous physical activity even for those in the best physical condition. It is made more difficult by cold weather as cold air makes it harder to breathe which can add extra strain to your body. Cold temperatures can also cause your muscles to tighten which may increase the chances of a back strain. The following are some tips to consider this winter to help prevent injuries while shoveling snow.

  • Those who have a history or are at risk of heart disease should consult your physician prior to physical activity.
  • Cold weather puts extra stress on your heart. If you have any heart conditions contact your doctor prior to doing any heavy snow removal. Cold temps increase blood pressure, raise the stress level on the wall of the heart and increase the blood's viscosity. Add heavy exercise like shoveling to the mix and it could spell disaster for those at risk.
  • Avoid caffeine or nicotine before shoveling. These are stimulants which may increase your heart rate.
  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can become just as big of an issue in cold weather as it is in warm weather.
  • Dress in layers. You can remove layers later as needed.
  • Wear proper footwear depending on how deep the snow is.
  • Stretch! Warm up your muscles. Stretch before, during and after shoveling. Warm muscles are less likely to get injured (strained). Take breaks as needed.
  • Use a smaller shovel or lift small amounts at a time depending on how heavy the snow is. Plastic shovels may weigh less and snow is less likely to stick to them.
  • Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Bend with your knees. Keep the load close to your body. Point your toes in the direction are lifting and throwing. 
  • Don't Twist! When possible, preserve the natural "S" curve of your spine. Your back is strongest when in this position.