Don't Let Shoveling Snow You Under

Take it easy when you attack the driveway after a blizzard

Please note: This article was published more than one year ago. The facts and conclusions presented may have since changed and may no longer be accurate. And "More information" links may no longer work. Questions about personal health should always be referred to a physician or other health care professional.

SATURDAY, Dec. 25, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- With winter's arrival, the snow shovel may now seem as inevitable as death and taxes.

However, there's some good to be had in pushing the white stuff around.

Clearing the snow from your driveway and sidewalk can be a good form of exercise. The U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health says 15 minutes of snow shoveling counts as moderate physical activity.

But if you pile on too much effort and don't follow safety guidelines, snow shoveling can burden you with a flurry of injuries, or even kill you.

Back injuries, pulled muscles and heart attack are among the potential health threats. The cold air makes it more difficult for you to breathe, and that can add extra strain on your hardworking body. Don't forget hypothermia and frostbite are possible if you don't wear the proper clothing.

Nevertheless, don't let all this melt your enthusiasm. Here's a blizzard of tips for safe snow shoveling from the National Safety Council:

  • Stretch before you shovel, just as you would before doing any type of exercise.
  • Don't try to shovel all of your driveway or sidewalk at one time. Do one area at a time, and take breaks. If you feel tightness in your chest, stop immediately.
  • Use a shovel that's the right size for your height.
  • If you have any history of heart trouble, get permission from your doctor before you do any snow shoveling.
  • Don't shovel right after you eat, and don't smoke while you shovel.
  • Push the snow; don't lift it. It's easier on your back.
  • Dress warmly and be sure to protect extremities such as your nose, ears, hands and feet.

More information

You can find more information about snow-shoveling safety at the American Physical Therapy Association.

SOURCES: National Safety Council; North Dakota State University; University of Western Ontario

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