How to Safely Shovel Snow

When it’s your responsibility to shovel snow near your apartment, there are some safety tips you should keep in mind. Although you may want to shovel quickly so you don’t spend a ton of time laboring to create a clear, safe path from your front door to the outside world, it’s essential to work gradually and thus take your health and safety into account. Here’s everything you need to know on how to safely shovel snow.

Shovel before eating

The National Safety Council (NSC), which advocates for safe practices during laborious work activities, advises that people should eat after shoveling instead of before. This is partially because many people experience nausea when they eat before a workout, but at the same time, you shouldn’t be starving or feel lethargic due to an empty stomach. If you do decide to eat before shoveling, have at most a small snack 30 minutes to two hours before you take to the snow.How to Safely Shovel Snow

Stretch before shoveling

Shoveling can be a strenuous activity, so you’ll need a proper warm-up. If you want to shovel shortly after waking up, health experts recommend waiting 45 minutes to an hour before getting to work. If you’re already up, active, and ready to shovel, it’s important to first do a few quick dynamic warm-ups. 

Knee grabs and large arm circles are great warm-ups to do before shoveling snow. To do knee grabs, stand up and alternate pulling each knee to your chest for 12 to 15 repetitions. To do arm circles, draw large circles with your arms forward and back for a few repetitions. In addition to these warm-ups, some doctors suggest getting your heart pumping with a brisk walk for one mile on a treadmill, if possible, before shoveling.

Take breaks to avoid exhaustion

If you’re feeling tired from shoveling, you should take a break – overexertion can be deadly, as men can sometimes have heart attacks after shoveling snow. According to researchers at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center, men are one-third more likely than women to die of a heart attack the day after an eight-inch snowfall compared to a day without any snowfall.

Push, don’t lift (unless necessary)

Many people think shoveling snow means lifting and tossing snow over your shoulder, but doing so can actually be dangerous. Push snow instead of lifting to prevent stressing your back. Speaking of which:

Use your legs, not your back

If you must lift snow while shoveling, make sure to squat with your legs apart. With your knees bent, lift with a straight back without bending at the waist. As you lift the snow, keep the shovel close to you to reduce back strain. To make sure you’re not overworking the same sets of muscles, switch between shoveling right-handed and left-handed.

Focus on fresh, powdery snow

The easiest type of snow to shovel is fresh, powdery snow. However, sometimes snow can get hard, making it difficult to shovel. To make shoveling easier, coat your shovel’s blade (not its handle) with cooking spray. If you do spray your shovel to have more ease with pushing some snow, wipe the shovel clean with a paper towel when you’re done. After following all of these tips, you’ll have a much safer and easier time shoveling.

What safety precautions do you take when you’re shoveling snow? Sound off in the comments!

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