Freshly fallen snow looks pretty, but the clearing of driveways and sidewalks can prove dangerous. Shoveling several inches of snow could lead to sore muscles and possibly more serious health issues such as a heart attack.
You can minimize your health risks when you’re cleaning up after a winter storm. Catholic Health Physician Partners Cardiologist Chong Park, MD, suggests doing a 10-minute warm-up before going outside.
“Light exercise and stretching allow your muscles and joints to loosen,” he said. “Also, avoid eating a heavy meal and consuming alcohol prior to clearing snow.”
Dr. Park added, “Should symptoms such as chest pain, chest heaviness, palpitations or shortness of breath occur as you shovel snow, stop immediately and seek medical attention.”
Other tips from Dr. Park include:
Dress properly: To stay warm when you’re outside, wear several loose layers of clothing. Additionally, don a water-resistant coat and boots along with a knit hat, scarf and gloves. It’s important to keep your gloves as dry as possible while shoveling. Wet gloves won’t keep your hands warm.
Set your pace: You may want to clear the snow as fast as possible, but that’s when injuries occur. Go slow and do it step-by-step. As much as possible, push snow along the ground. Use a smaller snow shovel to avoid lifting a load that is too heavy. Be sure to take frequent breaks, return inside to warm up and consume plenty of water. It’s also important to clear snow as quickly as possible before it begins to melt and gets too heavy.
Good form: When lifting snow, it’s important to use your legs. Bending at the waist can lead to an injury. Keep your back straight and squat with your knees wide. Avoid tossing snow. Instead, walk it to where you want to dump it.
Avoid falls: Wear boots with slip-resistant soles. Once you have cleared your driveway and walkway, throw down salt or sand to eliminate any remaining ice or snow and enhance traction.
Additional health and wellness tips from Catholic Health physicians may be found by visiting www.chsli.org/health-wellness.
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