#happylife: Snow shoveling safety

Shoveling snow is one of the activities we look forward to least in winter months.

When it snows, it is a task usually done without much thought and planning. As we put on multiple layers and climb to our garages to grab the shovels (and plows if lucky) we are usually thinking about how quickly we can complete the job so we can get back inside and warm up!

Yet, shoveling snow is not something we should take lightly, especially as we get older. Shoveling causes thousands of injuries a year and as many as 100 deaths, most from heart attack.

Shoveling is a vigorous and sudden activity. Think about it, most of the time you go out to shovel right after getting up in the morning, as you are rushing to get ready for work. You could be lifting hundreds of pounds of snow in your driveway in 15 minutes as you try and clear a path to avoid tardiness!

“It’s a heavier load than your body is used to,” explained Nick Hedgecock, a strength and conditioning coach with Multicare Rockwood.

The cold weather is also a shock to the system no matter if you are healthy or have a pre-existing cardiovascular condition. Frigid temperatures can increase your heart rate and blood pressure making blood clot more easily. It can constrict arteries, decreasing blood supply and cause you to go in to cardiac arrest.

Hedgecock advises anyone with a cardiovascular condition to speak with their doctor before engaging in strenuous activity, even one that seems like a simple household chore!

The National Safety Council says individuals over 40 who have a sedentary lifestyle should be particularly careful, though.

To make it easier on your body, before you begin, start with a warm-up, stretching out your upper body.

“Also make sure that you start small, with the light, powdery stuff. Don’t over exert. Take your time. Especially if it’s really cold and they have a lot of shoveling to do. Take breaks. Don’t get to a point where you are sweating or breathing excessively heavy,” added Hedgecock.

Avoid compact snow and ice.

Nick explained, “the heavy compact snow, when you get that on the end of your shovel, it’s now several feet away from your body, which is going to place more stress on your back and on your core and if you are not careful with that, when you go to twist and throw the snow off the shovel, that can really throw your back out.”

It’s also important to know the warning signs of a heart attack, which can include chest/upper body discomfort, shortness of breath, lightheadedness and nausea. If you experience these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

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