Consider Your Fitness Before Shoveling Snow

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The early March snowfall has left a lot of the white stuff on the ground in Ocean County, and while pretty to look at on lawns and woodlands, removing snow from sidewalks and driveways is a job that should be left to the physically fit, according to an Ocean County Health Department spokesman.

“Shoveling snow may be good exercise, but anyone over 40 years of age who has not been physically active should be careful before attempting to clear a driveway or sidewalk,” said Edward Rumen, Public Information Officer.

“People with a history of heart problems should get their doctor’s OK before attempting to shovel their walkway or driveway,” said Ella Boyd, VMD, Public Health Coordinator “Others who should think twice before shoveling snow include heavy smokers, persons with a history of back problems, overweight individuals, or persons with other high-risk health problems.”

“If in poor physical condition, consider hiring a local teenager or neighbor to clear your pathways for you,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Gerry P. Little, liaison to the Board of Health.

According to the National Safety Council, the following tips can help you safely shovel snow this season:

· Dress in layers and remember that your extremities, such as the nose, ears, hands and feet need extra protection during extended outdoor exposure in winter.

· Do not shovel after eating or while smoking.


· Take it slow. Stretch out, walk in place and warm up before taking shovel in hand. Shoveling is hard work and can raise your heart rate and blood pressure dramatically.

· Shovel only fresh snow even if means shoveling more often.

· Push the snow as you shovel. It’s easier on the back than lifting the snow.

· Don’t attempt to pick up too much snow at once. Use a smaller shovel, or fill only one-fourth or one-half of a larger one.

· Lift with your legs bent, not your back. Keep your back straight. By bending and “sitting” into the movement, you’ll keep your spine upright and less stressed. Your shoulders, torso and thighs can do the work for you.

· Do not work to the point of exhaustion. If you run out of breath, take a break. If you feel tightness in the chest, stop immediately.

· Drink enough water before, during and after shoveling. Dehydration is just as big an issue in cold weather as it is in summer. Avoid caffeine or nicotine, since they can increase your heart rate and cause blood vessels to narrow, putting extra stress on your heart.

· If you are sore after shoveling, take a hot bath, get a massage or take a pain reliever.