When most people think of health risks associated with shoveling snow, they tend to think of muscle strains and back problems. While muscle strains are, indeed, a concern, for many people middle-aged and older, the greater danger is suffering a heart attack. Research has shown that shoveling snow for just ten minutes puts similar strain on your heart as running on a treadmill till you drop. It’s that strenuous. Meanwhile, exposure to the cold causes your body to constrict your blood vessels?a recipe for a heart attack. In fact, snow shoveling is commonly cited as the primary factor in elevated heart attack rates during the winter months.
As for your back, whenever possible avoiding lifting a snow-filled shovel. Instead, push the snow off your sidewalks, driveways, walkways, etc. If you must lift the snow, you should face the direction you’re lifting and avoid twisting as much as possible. If you begin to feel sore or fatigued, stop shoveling and try again later.
Snow Shoveling Safety Tips
- Don’t shovel soon after you wake up. A slipped disc injury is much more likely to occur in the morning due to the build-up of fluid in the disc from lying down all night.
- Check with your doctor if you have even reason to believe shoveling snow might present a health hazard, particularly any heart condition.
- Use multiple layers of clothing, shed layers to avoid becoming overheated, and use slip-resistant boots.
- Spray or rub some type of lubricant on the shovel to keep snow from sticking to your shovel?the lighter the load, the better.
- Before you start, drink some water to stay hydrated, and stretch like you would for any strenuous activity.
- Take frequent breaks.
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The False Security of the Snow Thrower
Loathe to shovel their snow, many homeowners own a snow thrower. It may seem almost too easy, getting out there with a high-powered snow, while your neighbor labors and heaves with a manual shovel. According to the Center for Disease Control and United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, snow thrower-related injuries account for 4,000-6,000 emergency room visits each year. More than 1,000 of these injuries will result in maiming or amputations.
Unfortunately, too many people take snow thrower safety for granted until injuries occur. Despite manufacturer warnings, that the augur blades on the thrower can continue to rotate even after the machine has been shut off. Using a snow thrower involves a lot more than “just going for a walk.”
Alternatives to Snow Shovels and Snow Throwers
Obligated to keep their sidewalks clear, many homeowners may feel like they have few snow removal options, especially if their neighborhood doesn’t have the entrepreneurial teenager. While most people know professional snow removal services are out there, few realize that contacting these professionals can be as easy as a few mouse clicks. Internet users can easily find an online referral service that will match homeowners with local contractors.
Have a Snow Removal Plan
This is the silver bullet for safely removing snow from your property. From young residents who are trying to get down on expenses as much as possible to older homeowners who need a low-maintenance solution to their snow-covered sidewalks, devising a plan, long before the snow begins to fall, that will ensure your health and safety is critical to handling the winter season.