The first flakes of snow have fallen, but we are not inundated yet. So, this is a perfect time to think proactively about keeping winter weather from taking a painful toll on your body. Regardless of how bad our winter-to-come ends up being, heeding a few important tips will make all the difference if you need to clear a safe path through snow. Please, though, remember your actual limitations! If your back, legs, neck or heart aren’t up to it (you know who you are!) keep yourself safe and potentially save your life by hiring a service or asking friends and neighbors to help you out.
- Warm up inside before you start. Stretching your muscles and warming up your body before you go outside into the cold will reduce the risk of muscle strain.
- Use your abdominal muscles. Strong abdominals will keep the natural inward curve of your back. Bending over while shoveling makes your back vulnerable to injury.
- Don’t twist your body. Twisting your back to pick up or dump snow adds strain to your back. Instead, keep one foot in front of the other and always make sure that your feet face the direction in which you are picking up and tossing the snow.
- Use your legs to lift. This will relieve some of the pressure on your back, so that the weight of the snow is supported by your entire body, not just your back
- Lift loads that are manageable. Even though it may take you a little longer to shovel smaller amounts at a time, this will reduce the strain on your back. Remember, you will be moving the shovel over and over, so you don’t want to use all your strength in one lift.
- Take breaks. Stand up tall, place your hands on your low back and gently bend backwards ten times. Doing this back extension every 10-20 minutes will help keep your back loose and allow you to reflect on your progress.
- Take your time! Rushing, lifting heavy loads and losing your balance can result in injuries.