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Shovel That Snow! Or Perhaps Not

Yes, I was one of those people out there after our 8-inch snowfall shoveling a path for my dog in the backyard. I’m a saint. And it was great exercise. But it got me thinking about shoveling snow safely. Here’s what I can tell you about that:

  • First of all, and most importantly, please don’t give yourself a heart attack. Having a clear driveway isn’t worth that much is it? If you’re sedentary most of the time, then the sudden exertion of moving hundreds of pounds of snow puts a big strain on your heart. So does the cold. Cold weather increases heart rate and blood pressure, and makes blood clot more easily – even in healthy people.
  • Don’t shovel after eating a big meal (which puts further stress on your heart)
  • Dress in layers so you’re not cold when you start out
  • Warm up (circle your arms or march in place) and stretch a bit before you begin
  • Try to shovel fresh, powdery, lighter snow
  • When possible, push the snow rather than lifting it
  • If you do lift it, only partially fill the shovel
  • Lift with your legs, not your back!
    • bend your knees and squat – don’t bend at the waist
    • don’t twist to throw the snow or throw it over your shoulder – instead, walk over to where you want to dump the snow
  • Protect yourself from falls. Put down sand or environmentally- and pet-safe ice melts. Consider wearing slip-on ice cleats – as my sister-in-law, the crime writer Brenda Buchanan describes them, “they’re like four-wheel drive for your boots.”
  • Take breaks, and do not work to the point of exhaustion
  • Know the signs of a heart attack, and stop immediately and call 911 if you’re experiencing any of them –every minute counts

Here’s a link to a list of snow shovels recommended by the New York Times

As for my own personal driveway, all I can say is God bless Bill, the guy who comes with his giant plow.

Wishing you happy, safe holidays.