Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Snow Shoveling Safely

Shoveling out from another snowstorm? Jog in place beforehand and practice safe lifting techniques to avoid pulled muscles.

Did you know that shoveling snow counts towards your 30 minutes a day of exercise? Considered moderate to heavy exercise, it burns up to 400 calories an hour. As with any workout, you can minimize your risk of injury by taking certain precautions.

First, if you have heart disease or are at high risk for it, consult your doctor before digging in. The body reacts to cold weather and strenuous exercise by activating the fight-or-flight branch of the nervous system, which can up your risk for heart-related problems. More common injuries from shoveling include pulled muscles and back strain.

Do some warming up and stretching — think jumping jacks or jogging in place — before you go outside to shovel. To reduce the amount of force on your back, take modest amounts of snow at a time, and push the shovel as much as you can instead of lifting it. When you do pick up a load of snow, remember to lift with your legs and not your back. To do so, squat slightly with your legs shoulder-width apart and lift by straightening your legs. Walk to where you want to dump the snow and release. Try not to heave the shovel over your shoulder, or you could twist and wrench your back.

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