When you think of snow shoveling, you probably think of blisters and that strange mix of feeling too hot and too cold at the same time. You might think of backaches or joint injuries.
It could be your time to relax and unwind, like when you mow the lawn.
But did you know that snow shoveling can be life-threatening? It can cause heart attacks and cardiac stress.
If you use proper shoveling techniques, though, you decrease that risk quite a bit.
Today, we share 12 snow shoveling tips to ensure your safety this upcoming winter.
How Dangerous is Shoveling Snow?
Shoveling snow is dangerous. The Cleveland Clinic says that shoveling deep snow increases your risk of a heart attack even more.
First of all, it puts a “lot of strain on your heart,” according to cardiologist Luke Laffin of the Cleveland Clinic.
You might not usually exercise. One morning, you might go outside to shovel heavy snow regardless. Dr. Laffin says that this could trigger a heart attack.
When you’re cold, your arteries contract. When your arteries contract, your blood pressure rises.
So when you combine that with intense exercise like snow shoveling, it’s easy to imagine why you’re more at risk for a heart attack.
Should I Wait Until the Snow Stops to Shovel?
If you think that you should wait until the snow stops to shovel, think again.
How does that make sense? When to shovel snow depends on the snow’s weight. The longer you wait for it to stop, the more it accumulates and the more it weighs altogether.
Tips to Keep Yourself Safe While Snow Shoveling
The best way to shovel snow is a combination of all of the below tips. However, if you are 55 or older, obese, overweight or have several medical issues, Dr. Laffin recommends that you don’t shovel snow at all.
Also, share these tips with your loved ones. Look out for older or ill friends and family members as they shovel.
The first important step when snow shoveling is to stay warm.
First of all, it’s a great excuse to start a roaring fire before you head outside in the dead of winter. It’s also a good reason to pull out all of your cold-weather gear.
Dress in layers. You can shed them as you shovel the driveway or take a break if you overheat.
Here are some examples of what to wear:
- Warm socks
- A ski mask if it’s extremely frigid outside
And the list goes on. Staying warm doesn’t just include your clothes, though. You should stretch before shoveling. This prevents muscle strain.
The New Jersey Safety Institute recommends that you stay hydrated. You might think that water consumption is only important when it’s hot outside. But snow shoveling is exercise. Water replenishes your body and you need it every time you exercise, even if the weather chills you to the bone.
Take a thermos of water outside with you every time you shovel. The New Jersey Safety Institute also suggests that you drink some of your water every 15 minutes, as a rule.
Consider Working at a Slower Pace
You will shovel everything eventually, even if it feels impossible. Resist the urge to speed up so that you can get back inside faster.
Snow shoveling safety is useless if you work frantically. It causes muscle damage, soreness the next day, back pain and even heart attacks.
It is wise to take breaks, too. Your work won’t go anywhere. You can even set a timer every 20 minutes or so and take a break for a set period of time.
It’s a great idea to take breaks and work at a slower pace if you have a lot of property to shovel. Even if you work quickly when you first start, you will find yourself tired anyways. Then, it will take longer to complete the whole task no matter how fast you move at the beginning.
Wear Back Supports When Lifting and Shoveling
“Lift with your knees, not your back!” Have you ever heard that one before?
We hope so. If you haven’t, follow that rule now. When you put all of the weight and stress on your back, you open the door to slipped discs and a ton of other back issues. All of them are painful.
Another tip is to wear a back support when you shovel and lift snow.
Bend at the knees as you lift. Do not keep your knees stiff and straight while you bend your back. In fact, it should be the opposite: bend your knees while you keep your back upright.
Be sure to keep your feet hip-width or shoulder-width apart. Don’t hold the shovel far away from your body. Make sure that when you turn, you turn with your whole body instead of only twisting at the hips.
Wear Snow Boots
Snow boots shouldn’t just be a fashion statement. They must be practical.
Choose waterproof and slip-resistant boots. They shouldn’t just be water-resistant. Your snow boots have to be multifunctional. They should:
- Keep your feet and ankles warm
- Support your feet and ankles with a sturdy structure
- Be slip-resistant enough so that you do not fall on black ice or slippery snow
- Keep your feet dry
Observe Your Own Body
Your body knows when it is overworked and tired. It also knows when it is in danger. So the most crucial tip for how to shovel snow properly and safely is to listen to it.
Do you feel like you tweaked your back? Are you sore anywhere else? Do you feel a sharp pain in your side or in your chest? Are you exhausted?
Listen to what your body tells you. If snow shoveling makes it worse, then don’t do it anymore that day. Get some rest and relaxation instead. If you experience heart attack symptoms, call 9-1-1 right away.
Here are some common signs of an oncoming heart attack:
- Sudden chest pain
- Increasing chest pain
- A hard time breathing
- Pain in either of your arms, belly, back or neck
- A squeezing feeling in your chest
- Jaw pain
- Cold sweats
Men are more prone to chest pain when they have a heart attack. Women, however, might notice the other symptoms first.
Shovel While the Snow is Still Soft
Like we said earlier, shovel the snow while it is still soft, if possible. New snowfall is more powdery and weighs less. Melting snow compacts and forms ice blocks that are heavy.
Shovel snow during a snowfall and before it starts snowing again. Experts recommend that you shovel every time the snow sticks up to two inches.
Most snow shoveling injuries occur when the snow has hardened into ice or frozen solid, like after a snowstorm. If you are physically fit and healthy, clearing away light snow isn’t all that hard to do. But if it’s heavy snow or ice, it can hurt even healthy folks.
If the snowfall does reach over two inches then shovel two to three inches at once then take a break.
Push the Shovel Instead of Lifting It
The next time you’re in the market for a snow shovel, consider a snow pusher instead.
When you push a shovel, it strains your muscles and heart far less than when you lift and throw it over and over again. Push the snow into a designated area where you’re not likely to slip on the pile.
Use the Proper Shovel and Tools
You need a high-quality shovel to stay safe in the winter months.
But did you know that a small shovel also encourages safe snow shoveling habits?
According to the New Jersey Safety Institute, a full-sized or large shovel holds close to 15 pounds of snow. If you have a small shovel, that isn’t even possible.
Also think about a shovel with a comfortable handle. Some shovels come with adjustable handles so that you don’t have to bend over as much. A handle with a curve does the same. You should lubricate your shovel so that you don’t have to waste energy and tap the snow off every time you pick it up.
Make sure your handle is the right size. If it’s too big, you can’t keep your hands far apart to avoid excess strain.
Transport Snow in Smaller Batches
Another reason to work with small tools is so you can move the snow in smaller batches.
Again, shovel it a little bit at a time. Don’t transport more than a few inches of snow at a time. You wear yourself out faster and might hurt yourself in the process.
Do Not Shovel After You Eat or While You Smoke
If you shovel right after you eat, you still have to digest your food. If you shovel while you smoke, your heart rate elevates.
Both of them increase cardiac stress and increase your chances of a heart attack.
Think of Your Heart When It’s Cold Outside
Overall, think of your heart health when the temperature drops.
It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor. If you have other underlying illnesses or are overweight and don’t exercise often, figure out the best option for you.
Exscape Designs cares about your health and your home and business improvement needs.
Contact us today for a consultation or more information.