Snow shoveling is physically demanding work but is a fact of life for Canadians. During the winter season, shovelling becomes a common and necessary part of our daily routine. However, if snow shoveling is done incorrectly, it can be hazardous to your health and lead to slips, falls, muscle strains, bulging disks or even heart attack. Shovelling is so hard on the body because it requires tremendous simultaneous from the legs, arms and back.
Not only is shovelling physically demanding but because of the freezing temperatures, the body constricts its blood vessels to maintain heat which places additional stress on the cardiovascular system and muscles. As a result, snow shoveling is often associated with increased incidences of anginas, heart attacks and sudden cardiac death.
People who live sedentary lives are at most risk as the “shock” to system of going from rest to what is essentially heavy labour is quite traumatic to the body.
General Safety Tips for Snow Shovelling:
CHECK WITH YOUR HEALTH PROFESSIONAL: Sedentary individuals, the elderly or those with pre-existing medical conditions should consider having a child or neighbour shovel for them or hire someone to the job. Ask your doctor or physiotherapist before shoveling if you have any doubts.
WARM-UP: Before shovelling or any manual labour, take a brisk walk around the block to warm-up the body. A full body stretch is also essential while focusing on the muscles used in the movements you will be undertaking including lifting and bending over.
WEAR APPROPRIATE CLOTHING: Dress for the weather by wearing layered clothing so in case you get too warm, layers can easily be taken off. It is important that the outer layer is water repellant to avoid getting wet and lowering your body temperature. Wear appropriate hats, gloves and scarves and ensure boots or shoes have slip resistant soles to avoid falls.
START EARLY: Shovel throughout the snowfall instead of waiting until the snow has built up and become heavy to lift. Shovel while the snow is still light and fluffy; the longer you leave it, the denser and heavier it gets which makes shovelling significantly more difficult.