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Posted on Jan 2016 in Healthy Living

Clear your walk wisely


Kids love it for its play value and ability to cancel school, but many adults are less enthusiastic about the annual arrival of snow. Not only can it sometimes be challenging for drivers, but it also has to be cleared from driveways and sidewalks every time it falls.

If you’re the adult in charge of taking care of the white stuff, there are some important things to keep in mind before you head out into the cold shovel in hand.

7 safety tips for injury-free snow shoveling

  1. Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine prior to shoveling. They place additional strain on your heart, which is definitely not wise prior to strenuous physical activity.
  2. Make sure you’re not dehydrated. Drink plenty of water, just like you would when doing any form of exercise. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you’re not working up a sweat.
  3. Wear proper footwear. Not only do you want to make sure your feet are warm and dry, but you also want to make sure the boots you’re wearing have a good tread so you won’t slip and fall.
  4. Warm up your muscles inside first. You’ll be using a lot of muscles when you’re clearing snow, so stretch them out first to help avoid strains. Check out this video from Advocate South Suburban Hospital that demonstrates some good pre-shoveling stretches that will help get you warmed up and ready to go.
  5. Don’t try to do it all at once. If you’re able, clear the snow frequently during storms rather than waiting for it to pile up. Yes, you’ll be shoveling more often, but you won’t be pushing and lifting large amounts of compacted snow. Freshly fallen snow is usually much lighter and easier to clear.
  6. Take frequent breaks. Go at a nice, slow pace and rest for 2-3 minutes for every 5-7 minutes of shoveling.
  7. Protect your back. If you can, always try to push the snow rather than lift it. If you have to lift, make sure you protect your back by lifting properly and safely. Bend from your knees, not your back, and avoid twisting while lifting. Walk to dump the shovel full of snow rather than throwing it.

Know when to call it quits

Think twice about shoveling snow if you:

  • have had a heart attack or have other forms of heart disease
  • have high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • are a smoker
  • lead a sedentary lifestyle1

It can be hard to ask for help when you’ve been independent your whole life, but when it comes to your health and safety you should never hesitate to protect yourself. Hire a local student to clear your driveway, ask a neighbor or family member for help, or contact a landscaping company to get a quote on seasonal snow removal.

In some areas seniors and those with medical conditions that render them unable to shovel can apply to have snow windrow (the pile of snow left at the bottom of the driveway after the plow goes by) removed free of charge. Call or check your city or town’s website to see if this service is available in your area.

Always consult your doctor before the snow flies to make sure it’s not dangerous for you to shovel snow. If when shoveling you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, stop and seek medical aid immediately:

  • Discomfort or heaviness in the chest, arms or neck
  • Unusual or prolonged shortness of breath
  • A dizzy or faint feeling
  • Excessive sweating or nausea and vomiting

For more good tips on how to shovel safely visit Toronto Paramedic Services


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413187F CAN/US (01/16)

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