Tips for safer, more efficient snow shovelling

shovelling snow Photo by Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock.com

Another winter storm is set to hit the southern portion of Ontario, blanketing the Golden Horseshoe with snow. The Weather Network has described it as the “blockbuster winter storm of the season.” The early morning snow is also expected to change to ice pellets and freezing rain in some areas close to Lake Ontario, dampening both morning and evening commutes across the region. But winter weather isn’t just a hassle when it’s coming down—there’s also the mess leftover the next day. A big storm storm today means a big item on your to do list tomorrow, and one that can have a big impact on your health if you don’t take proper care or practice good shovelling techniques. To ensure you return indoors with a clean driveway and, most importantly, your health, follow these tips for safe and efficient shovelling. 

Choose a good shovel: Sure, any old shovel will do, but it’s 2019, which means there are a ton of ergonomic and lightweight shovels available that would stop your grandfather in his tracks. Today’s shovels have sturdy yet lightweight aluminum shafts that are easy to grip and often curved, which makes moving snow even easier, since you don’t have to put as much effort into each swing. Head to your nearest hardware or outdoor store, and you’ll likely have lots of options to choose from. But if you’re not sure where to start, some of our favourites include the True Temper 18-inch Ergonomic Mountain Mover and Suncast’s Double Grip Ergonomic Combo.

Get in the proper position: No matter what shovel you’re working with, you’ll want to pay close attention to your body placement to avoid any injuries, like back strain. Be sure to stand with your feet hip-width apart, wearing boots with good grip, so you don’t slip and are able to easily maintain your balance. When you hold the shovel, space your hands apart to increase your leverage and engage your core. According to the Canadian Chiropractic Association, you should avoid twisting your body when you lift, instead moving your feet to turn your body, and place the snow to the side rather than throw it. Like any physical activity, you should also loosen your muscles ahead of time with a good stretch!

Know your limits: Be sure to take it slow. After all, shovelling snow isn’t just a demanding activity—it may be the first physical activity you’ve gotten in months. It’s easy to start vigorously digging into the snow in attempt to get the exhausting chore out of the way, but to prevent injuries, make sure you take breaks as needed. If you have a tendency to push yourself, try sticking to the shovelling guidelines set out by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, which outlines a recommended shovelling rate (about 15 scoops per minute) and weight (about 10 to 15 lbs), among other guidelines.

Know your risk: To reduce your risk of a heart attack while shovelling, the U.S. National Safety Council also advises you to take it slow, avoid shovelling immediately after eating or while you’re smoking, and stop if you feel any sort of dizziness or tightness in your chest. Research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that men were one-third more likely to die of a heart attack after an eight-inch snowfall than they were on a dry day. The researchers believed these results were directly linked to shovelling, which can require more than 75 percent of a person’s maximum heart rate, often for the first time in months!

Dress in layers: Dressing appropriately for shovelling snow, and any winter activity for that matter, typically involves dressing in layers. You can’t step outside in a T-shirt, but you also need to be able to strip down to lighter clothing when you start to overheat and sweat, because you’ll be even colder when it dries, and according to Harvard Health Publishing, constricted blood vessels are one of the factors that lead to an uptick in heart attacks after snowfalls. 

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