Snow Shoveling Tips

Snow Shoveling Tips
Be heart healthy and back friendly while shoveling this winter with these tips:
  • If you are inactive and have a history of heart trouble, talk to your doctor before you take on the task of shoveling snow.
  • Avoid caffeine or nicotine before beginning. These are stimulants, which may increase your heart rate and cause your blood vessels to constrict. This places extra stress on the heart.
  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is just as big an issue in cold winter months as it is in the summer.
  • Dress in several layers so you can remove a layer as needed.
  • Warm up your muscles before shoveling, by walking for a few minutes or marching in place. Stretch the muscles in your arms and legs, because warm muscles will work more efficiently and be less likely to be injured.
  • Pick the right shovel for you. A smaller blade will require you to lift less snow, putting less strain on your body. Newer shovels are manufactured from lightweight components that are ergonomically designed from high-impact molded polyethylene that won't rust, dent or bend, and are extraordinarily strong and durable. Aluminum tubing is also lighter and stronger than old-fashioned wooden handles.
  • Begin shoveling slowly to avoid placing a sudden demand on your heart. Pace yourself and take breaks as needed.
  • Protect your back from injury by lifting correctly.
  • Stand with your feet about hip width for balance and keep the shovel close to your body. Bend from the knees (not the back) and tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the snow. Avoid twisting movements. If you need to move the snow to 1 side reposition your feet to face the direction the snow will be going.
  • Most importantly listen to your body. Stop if you feel pain!
(Reprinted from North Dakota State University Extension Service)

5 Things to Know about Snow Removal

  • Where will your snow go? Plan to stash shoveled snow where it won't cause problems. Make sure there will be space for it to soak into a lawn or soil as it melts; water running off onto walks can freeze and create an ice hazard. Big piles can block traffic and don't dump snow containing salt or ice melters on lawns or garden beds. The chemicals can harm plants.
  • Shrubs need protection. Heavy snowfall can bend or snap the branches of tall, upright evergreens with multiple vertical branches, such as arborvitaes and some junipers. Protect them by tying soft twine or rope around the tree at the top, in the middle and at the bottom. Don't pull the twine too tight or use wire, which can cut the bark or foliage.
  • Take it easy. Shoveling snow is good exercise - if you're in shape. If you're not, it can cause muscle injuries and even heart problems. So don't overdo it, the National Safety Council says ( Push snow rather than lifting it if possible. Pick up only as much as you easily can; when snow is wet and heavy, pick up less. Bend your knees when lifting and keep your back straight. Warm up before shoveling and take lots of breaks. Consider ergonomic snow shovels that may give you more leverage and save your back. Spray WD-40 or cooking spray on the shovel so snow slides off more easily.
  • Keep it up. During a big storm, shovel frequently rather than waiting until snow is deep, according to the Canadian Safety Council. It's safer because you won't be tempted to lift too much snow at a time. And shovel promptly. Accumulated snow can quickly compact into ice.
  • Shovel without fear. Some folks still think shoveling your walk makes you more vulnerable to a lawsuit than if you let the snow lie. According to the Illinois' Snow and Ice Removal Act, there is no cause to worry. It specifically sets an extremely high standard to protect homeowners shoveling sidewalks from liability and urges everyone to keep the walks clear.
(Reprinted from Chicago Tribune, December 10, 2006)

For more tips, see the Winter Storm Resource Center of the University of Illinois Extension.