Shoveling snow can really do a number on your back!
Here are some things to keep in mind when shoveling.
Pick the Right Snow Shovel
Pick a light shovel so it doesn’t add to the weight of the snow. Make sure the handle is adjustable or long enough so you don’t have to bend over more than absolutely necessary.
Shoveling snow is strenuous exercise. You should warm up beforehand just like you would before working out in the gym or playing basketball. Do some light calisthenics (arm circles and raises, spinal twists, body weight squats) to warm up your muscles. You’ll know you are warmed up when you feel warm, start to sweat and are a little out of breath. Avoid stretching before you exercise…stretch after.
Use Good Form
Whenever possible, push the snow to one side rather than lifting it. Many shovels are designed to let you push snow. When lifting the snow shovel is necessary, make sure to use ergonomic lifting techniques:
Always face towards the object you intend to lift – have your shoulders and hips both squarely facing it.
Bend or HINGE at the hips, not the low back, and push the chest out, pointing forward. Tighten or flex your abs (think bracing) and your buttocks. Then, bend your knees and lift with your leg muscles, keeping your back straight and keep your face looking straight ahead or up. Just like you would doing an exercise in the gym.
Keep your loads light…work smarter, not harder.
If you must lift a full shovel, grip the shovel with one hand as close to the blade as comfortably possible and the other hand on the handle (handle and arm length will vary the technique). Keep your body as close to the blade as possible… the longer the lever arm, the more pressure on your back.
Turn to the side to dump your snow, avoid twisting your back (I know, it seems easier but it is much riskier for your back). Resist the urge to throw the snow.
Wear proper footwear to avoid slipping and falling.
It is easier to remove small amounts of snow than large amounts. Consider breaking the chore up into several sessions. Also, if possible, it is easier to shovel as the snow falls, rather than waiting for it to accumulate. Usually, you can push a few inches around.
This is also important for your heart. Snow shoveling is strenuous work and as you are bending and lifting, your muscles tighten around your organs, this internal pressure will raise your blood pressure. So it can be an intense workout for your body and your heart. If you start feeling dizzy or light headed, take a break. Heart attacks are common during snowfalls for this very reason. If you have high blood pressure or a heart condition, you’ll want to be extra careful when going out to shovel snow. If you have any questions, be sure to consult with your doctor or cardiologist before shoveling snow.
If possible, use a snow blower or borrow one from a friend or neighbor. If you already have back trouble, consider using a service for snow removal. If you have elderly or infirm neighbors, please help them!