When Tracie was working in a physiotherapy clinic she noticed an uptick in bookings right after the first snowfall. The reason … back pain caused by shoveling. It’s time to talk about how to safely shovel snow and avoid pulling any muscles. It could be a long winter, so let’s be careful as we head into our winter season.
First of all, shoveling is an excellent way to burn off a few extra calories in our day. For a 150-pound woman and a 200-pound man, getting out to clear snow will metabolize an additional 400-calories per hour. And you are using the big muscles of your legs, back, and shoulders which adds to the intensity of the workout. That is the good news, now for the safety talk …
Make sure you warm up sufficiently before you start. Take the stairs in your house, do a few squats, and move dynamically to increase your core body temperature. Better yet, do a few of the warm-up exercises from your AHS class, those are designed for safety before the volume set of exercises!
Next select a light shovel and you might want to purchase an ergonomically designed one (one with an arch in the handle).
As much as you can, use your body weight and push the snow rather than lift it. When you need to lift it up to pile it, square up and avoid twisting as much as possible (and try and move your feet with the load). Be deliberate in your lifting rather than flinging, swinging, or tossing the snow – this is a recipe for wrenching your back. Bend with your knees and keep the load close to you rather than creating a long lever (which means having heavy snow at the end of the shovel with your hands close to your body). Create a wide base of support (bend your legs and lower your centre of gravity) and spread your hands apart on the shovel.
And early in the season, as we build up our shoveling muscles, it is important to pace yourself:
Taking smaller loads and more trips.Shovel your walks more frequently rather than letting the snow get too deep or pile up.Take breaks, catch your breath, and continue.
After you are finished, don’t forget to gradually decrease your movement when you come in the house rather than sit down on the couch to rest. Consider a few stretches for your legs, maybe some cat-cow stretches for your spine, and then a twist for your lower back as you don’t want to stiffen up. Then drink a big glass of water and settle in to wait for the next opportunity for some shoveling exercise.
Only 5 more months of snow – let’s all be safe out there!