Snow Shoveling Safety

By Derrien Williams, Extension Agent

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Okay, some of you may be singing that tune, but I’ll confess: I’m not! Fortunately, it’s been a mild December so far in West Virginia, with temperatures on some days rising into the 70s. But, as it always does, winter – and snow – will come. And with snow comes one of those dreaded winter requirements: snow shoveling.

For many of us, the sight of snow falling is often a calming experience. It can be exciting if you are a student, because it increases the chances of a snow day. But, if you had parents like mine, then you didn’t get to sleep all day. You had the job of shoveling the snow off the driveway, sidewalks and sometimes for neighbors who weren’t able to shovel it themselves.

The good news is, shoveling snow is a great way to burn calories! Shoveling snow for an hour can burn anywhere from 300-500 calories. But, you should proceed with caution before you pick up that shovel. Snow shoveling is responsible for thousands of injuries and as many as 100 deaths each year nationwide. And, there’s the cold factor. Cold weather can increase heart rate and blood pressure. It can make blood clot more easily and constrict arteries, which decreases blood supply.

No matter what type of shape you are in, you may want to work up to it. Some tips include warming up inside, incorporating some hamstring stretches and core-strengthening exercises. In addition, shovel small amounts of snow at a time, especially if the snow is heavy and water-laden. Shovel for 5 or 10 minutes, and then go back inside for 10 minutes to do more stretching.

Additional recommendations include:

  • Do not shovel after eating or while smoking.
  • Shovel only fresh, powdery snow; it’s lighter.
  • Push the snow rather than lifting it.
  • If you do lift it, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel.
  • Lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion.

So, before you pick up the shovel, please remember these tips to ensure safe removal of snow and to prevent injury this winter season.



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