Shoveling snow is a job for an athlete, even though people tend to think it is a routine activity that anyone can do.
In fact, shoveling snow takes a huge toll on the heart and back. One shovel of wet snow weights 16 pounds. If you shovel 12 loads a minute, then in 10 minutes, you’ve moved 2,000 pounds, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
About 100 Americans on average die each year because of snow removal exertion, according to the Denver Post. About 12,000 suffer injuries that require a trip to the emergency room, according to a 16-year study reported in PubMed.
One key is to keep ahead of the drifts. Push snow several times while the snow is feathery, cold and shallow before it becomes heavy, wet and deep.
If you must shovel:
* Keep your spine in an upright, neutral position.
* Whenever you can, push the snow — don’t shovel it. You can use your large muscles in the hips and legs for pushing.
If you do have to lift:
* Take small bites of the snow with the shovel only about a fourth full.
* Use your leg muscles to lift the load.
* Keep the load low to the ground and close to your body.
* Avoid throwing the snow if you can. If you must throw it, throw light loads.
Breaks are critical
How long you can work depends on how heavy the snow is, your physical condition and how cold it is outside.
* If you feel fatigue, pain or shortness of breath, rest until you feel normal again. If you experience shortness of breath for a prolonged period, see your doctor immediately.