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Let It Snow! 9 Tips for Shoveling Safely


WRITTEN BY: Urgent Care
Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Now that the winter snow has made its way to Pittsburgh, it is important to recognize safe practices for shoveling your snow. Although it can be great exercise, shoveling snow can also pose some serious health risks including sore muscles, lower back pain, exhaustion, and even heart attacks. Follow the tips below to help you stay safe while shoveling.

Now that the winter snow has made its way to Pittsburgh, it is important to recognize safe practices for shoveling your snow. Although it can be great exercise, shoveling snow can also pose some serious health risks including sore muscles, lower back pain, exhaustion, and even heart attacks. Follow the tips below to help you stay safe while shoveling.

  1. Get a head start

  2. Get a head start shoveling
  3. Fresh-fallen powdery snow is much easier to lift than wet packed-down snow. Get started early and keep up with the snowfall throughout the day.
  4. Avoid caffeine and nicotine before shoveling

  5. avoid caffeine in the morning
  6. These products are stimulants which may increase your heart rate and cause your blood vessels to constrict, putting more stress on the heart.
  7. Dress in layers

  8. Dress in layers
  9. As your body starts to heat up, you can shed some of these layers to make yourself more comfortable.
  10. Stretch and warm-up before you begin shoveling

  11. Stretch before shoveling snow
  12. As with any exercise, getting your muscles loose and warm before you begin will lessen you chance of injury. We recommend walking or jogging in place, as well as fully stretching your arms, legs and back.
  13. Pick a shovel that works best for you

  14. Pick a shovel
  15. Using a shovel with a smaller blade will be lighter to lift, as well as limit the amount of snow you can pick up. There are also shovels with curved handles that are designed to take some of the strain off of your back.
  16. Good posture is key

  17. Good posture is key
  18. Stand with your feet hip width apart, bending at your knees and using your leg muscles as much as possible. Do not bend at your back. Keep the shovel close to your upper body and always avoid twisting or throwing snow over your shoulder.  If you need to deposit snow in another direction, reposition your feet first to prevent putting excess stress on your back which could lead to serious injury.
  19. Push the snow, don’t lift it

  20. Push snow instead of lifting it
  21. This will be much easier on your back and reduce your risk of injury.
  22. Take frequent breaks

  23. Take frequent breaks while shoveling snow.
  24. It is important to stop and rest about every 15 minutes or when your body begins to feel tired. Be sure to stay hydrated and pace yourself.
  25. Don’t overexert yourself

  26. Don't overexert yourself while shoveling
  27. Listen to your body and rest for a bit if you start to feel fatigued.

Note: Shoveling snow is a physical activity which can place a demand on your heart that can cause serious health concerns. Certain people should not shovel snow and it is important that you speak to your doctor before partaking in this physical activity. These people include:

  • Anyone who has previously had a heart attack
  • Anyone who has a history of heart disease
  • Individuals leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • Smokers
  • Individuals with high blood pressure or high cholesterol
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