Injury Prevention & Treatment

Advice from Mayo: How to Shovel Safely

Shoveling snow can be good exercise, but it’s been linked to heart attacks as well. If you, like millions of other people, plan to be shoveling this winter, you should check with your doctor first – and once you’ve gotten the OK, follow these smart strategies from the Mayo Clinic Health System:

• If you feel a tightening in your chest, stop, the Mayo experts say. The number of heart attacks increases in winter, especially during snow shoveling.

• Stay hydrated. Dehydration is just as much of a possibility in winter as in summer, the Mayo doctors say. So drink enough water.

•Layer it up. Dress warmly but in layers so you can remove one if you have to.

• Don’t use caffeine or nicotine before shoveling. The Mayo experts say that these substances could put extra stress on your heart. And of course, don’t smoke or eat while you’re out shoveling.

• Take breaks, and pace yourself.  You should also have a cell phone in case of emergency, the Mayo experts say.

• Shovel smart. Don’t pick up a heavy load of snow all at once. Choose a small shovel; if you have a large shovel, fill it only one fourth or one half, and keep the load as close to you as possible. Don’t pick up too much snow at once. Use a small shovel, or fill it only one-fourth to one-half if you use a large shovel. You can also just push the snow. All these precautions will make shoveling easier on the back.

• Make sure you bend right. Bend from your knees, not your back, the Mayo experts say. Lift you’re your legs bent, stand with your feel about hip width, and make sure the shovel is close to your body.

• Start shoveling as soon as you can. Snow is lighter just after it’s fallen – and before it’s tramped down.

• Most important, the Mayo experts say: Listen to your body – and stop if you feel tired.

For more information on health issues, visit www.mayoclinic.org.

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