Helpful Winter Tips

Here are some helpful tips to reduce your chances of falling prey to the snow.

What most people don't understand is that shoveling is a very aerobic exercise. Like any aerobic exercise you must warm up before you engage in the activity. Spend 10 minutes doing something to get the blood flowing and muscles warmed up. This can include walking briskly or stretching. Help limber up your back by going through some simple range of motion exercises. These include bending forward at the waist, bending backward, leaning to each side, and turning the upper body slowly to each side. Make sure each motion is slow, controlled, and deliberate. Once you are sufficiently warmed up, you are ready to rock and roll!

Hydration is a crucial component of every aerobic activity so make sure you drink enough liquids before, during, and after you shovel. Even though it's cold out you will work up a sweat resulting in a loss of electrolytes and fluids.

Picking the proper tool makes a big difference. An ergonomically curved handle shovel helps decrease the bending your back has to do. Also, the lighter the shovel is, the easier it will be to use, and so plastic is usually a better choice than metal.

One of the best ways to keep yourself out of trouble is to shovel the snow sooner rather than later. Removing snow after it has freshly fallen while it's light and fluffy will make your job that much easier. Prolonging this task runs the risk of snow freezing and becoming heavier and more difficult to move, leading to increased injury potential.

Another effective method is to not even shovel! If the snow is light enough you may have the opportunity to use the shovel as a plow and push the snow out of the way rather than lifting it. This reduces the load on your spine and consumes much less energy than shoveling.

Always make sure you have safe footing while shoveling. Wear appropriate footwear and watch out for ice or other slippery areas that could lead to a costly spill. You won't have to worry about injuring yourself shoveling if you have already fallen and hurt yourself before you even get started.

Lifting the snow is where most people run into trouble. Remember to stabilize your core by tensing your abdominal muscles while maintaining normal breathing. This will keep your back from hyper extending and placing more strain on it. Try not to bend at the waist since this will also increase pressure on the lower back. Bend with the legs as much as possible when you have to lift anything. Keep the shovel close to you and take multiple, smaller loads (it make take longer but it will be less stressful on you.)

Once you have lifted the snow, dispose of it in front of you, or turn your whole body completely to the side before you discard it. Twisting the back with a weighted load puts the most strain on the low back and predisposes you for the greatest injury potential. Don't throw the snow, but rather walk to where you want to put it and unload your shovel. Again, it may take you longer but you will avoid trouble and stay safe!