Heart attacks increase 25% during snowstorms due to cold weather constricting your blood vessels, increasing blood pressure and making your heart work harder. If you have shortness of breath, tightness in your chest, or discomfort in your arm or jaw, contact medical assistance as this could indicate a heart attack. Following these snow shoveling tips will help you to decrease this risk:
- Before going outside to shovel, stretch and jog in place, do jumping jacks, etc. to warm up your body. To stretch out your lower back (the most common body part injured in snow shoveling) lay on your back with both knees bent and one knee up towards your chest. Hold 15-30 seconds and repeat two-three times.
- Choose a shovel size that is appropriate for your body size and strength so that you are not lifting too much weight at once. Be mindful of the handle length as well. If the handle is too short, you will bend forward too much. If the handle is too long, the weight on the end will be too heavy.
- Wear light layers and make sure that the layer against the skin is a non-cotton fabric that wicks away moisture so you do not perspire and get chilled. Proper footwear is essential to give you traction for wet and icy surfaces. If you can, choose lighter-weight footwear to decrease fatigue with walking in the snow.
- Avoid holding your breath, as you may start to feel lightheaded or dizzy. In addition, consistent breathing will ultimately supply your muscles with more energy.
- Shovel early and often so that the snow does not add up. More snow equals more weight on your shovel, with each shovelful weighing up to 10 pounds. Limit the weight by getting out there as early or as much as you can.
- Push the snow with the shovel instead of picking it up or tossing it whenever possible. When you do need to pick up the snow, bend from your hips and knees, not your back (similar to a squat.) When lifting, lift with your legs and keep your back straight. Do not throw the snow over your back but pivot and throw to avoid excess twisting.