Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tips for Shoveling the Snow the Healthy Way

2014 has started off pretty fierce.  Snow, upon snow, and even more snow.  Melrose Park, and surrounding towns have been covered in this beautiful, wintery blanket.  The cold winter air is enough to get your muscles all tensed up, and add the snow shoveling, or plowing, or blowing over and over again for days, and your back, legs, arms, whole body may be needing a break.  I've written about this before, but I've had requests to talk about it again.  Here are a few healthy tips for how to safely shovel mountains of snow off your driveway, sidewalk, and porch:

  1. Make sure you are wearing layers.  Shoveling snow is a workout, and you may start to feel it before you are even halfway done with your driveway.  Wearing layers that you can easily peel away will help you from feeling over heated.
  2. Go slow and watch your body mechanics!  You don't have to rush through it.  Take your time, do it right, and take frequent breaks if you  need to.  How do you know when you are ready for a break?  If you feel tired, take a break.  If you are out of breath, take a break.  If your skin feels like it is getting too cold, take a break.
  3. Do smaller amounts at a time.  Don't try to show off to your neighbors how strong you are and load your shovel with an insane amount of snow (your neighbors aren't watching you).  Snow is heavy, and if you are repeatedly picking it up to move it, you will get tired.  You will forget your body mechanics, and you will get hurt.  Don't fill the shovel, rather, keep it to 25-50% full of snow, or use a smaller shovel.  Do what is comfortable.  Don't try to overextend yourself.
  4. Use your legs to lift the snow.  This goes back to watching your body mechanics.  Just like lifting a heavy box, you should use the strength of your legs to lift the shovel, and be sure not to twist your back as you toss the snow into its pile.
  5. Abstain from drinking caffeine at least an hour before heading out to shovel.  Your heart rate will go up as you shovel, and drinking caffeine has been related to heart attacks when people shovel. 
  6. Abstain from drinking alcohol at least an hour before heading out to shovel as well.  Drinking alcohol can give you a sense of feeling warmth and this may cause you to underestimate the winter chill outside putting you at risk for hypothermia.

If you are not fit to be shoveling, please get someone else to do it for you.  There are plenty of neighborhood teens going around looking to make a buck to shovel your snow for you (or call your local landscaper - in the winter.  Most of them will plow out your driveway).