Snow Shoveling– A winter workout that should be treated as such!
As winter conditions hit the Lower Mainland and the rest of BC, it’s a good time to review some tips and tricks for shoveling snow in order to ensure the safety of yourself and fellow
1. Tips for Safe Snow Shoveling- Warm-up and Equipment
- Warm-Up: Complete a 5 minute warm-up of light aerobic exercise such as walking around your home, and gentle stretching of your legs, back, shoulders, and arms. Completing this warm-up helps prepare your heart and muscles for physical activity, which makes the work easier and can help prevent injury.
- Shovel: Try using a smaller and ergonomically designed shovel. Smaller shovels limit how much snow you can move at once (less weight), and an ergonomically designed shovel promotes an upright posture in your back, allowing you to lift more with the strong muscles in your legs.
- Footwear: Wear proper fitting boots or shoes with enough grip that you won’t slip in icy conditions.
2. Tips for Safe Snow Shoveling- Shoveling Tactics and Technique
- Push the snow, opposed to lifting or throwing it.
- Lift with your legs keeping your chest up and back straight. After pushing snow, use proper lifting technique to safely move it onto the snow bank.
- Take frequent rest breaks
- Move smaller amounts of snow at a time, this can mean starting partway across a driveway or sidewalk rather than attempting the entire area at once.
- Switch hands frequently to avoid straining one side of your body.
- Shovel earlier in the day before snow melts and becomes heavier.
- Shovel multiple times during a snowfall rather than all at once to decrease how much snow you’re moving at once.
- Watch for ice, it can be hazardous both to slip on or if you catch your shovel on it while pushing forcefully.
- Cool-Down after shoveling by doing 5 minutes of gentle stretching in order to reduce muscle soreness.
3. Snow Shoveling Injuries- What’s at Risk and how can Physiotherapy Help?
The most common shoveling related injuries are soft tissue or muscle related injuries, mainly of the lower back. Other at risk areas are the arms, hands, neck, and shoulders. Injuries are usually from acute over-exertion, but can also arise from slips/falls, or being struck by the shovel. If you find that you have pain due to a snow shoveling injury, physiotherapy is an effective first-line treatment to decrease pain, improve mobility, and get you back to the activities you love doing. Early intervention is important in managing your injury quickly, so don’t hesitate to book in with a physiotherapist right away.
Shoveling snow can be a vigorous physical activity, and it’s important to respect the physical demands required. Hopefully you wouldn’t jump into a heavy workout lifting weights at the gym without warming up, taking breaks, or using proper technique, and likewise you shouldn’t do the same when shoveling snow!
Our Burnaby Sports Physiotherapy Clinic
Thomas Okamura is a Physiotherapist who is dedicated to helping people keep active and healthy this winter season. He was raised in snowy Edmonton, AB and has plenty of winter safety tips to share!
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