Exercise Tips for Shoveling Snow

By , SparkPeople Blogger

With much of the country experiencing an unseasonable amount of snow this winter many of us are finding ourselves digging out the snow shovel to clear our paths. But we must be mindful that while snow shoveling can give one quite a workout,it does come with some risks, as well as benefits. According to the 1996 Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health, just 15 minutes of snow shoveling counts as a moderate intensity activity. It is important to note that taking proper safety measures before heading outside is imperative in keeping you healthy and injury free.

If you have had a history of heart attack, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, have lived a sedentary lifestyle, had a history of back problems or you are a smoker, please check with your doctor before taking on this chore or better yet, let someone else do this intense activity. Snow shoveling can be a very intense aerobic activity and with the cold temperatures, the vessels of the cardiovascular system narrow while the blood thickens, therefore raising the risk for a heart attack.

According to Pam Lee, MPT, MA, physical therapist in the UI Spine Center at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics using proper technique when shoveling is important in keeping our body injury free. As with any lifting activity, it is advised that you lift from your legs and not use your back, however even the best form can fall apart when fatigue begins to set in. When this occurs it isn't too unusual for us to begin using our backs to do the work. This is why it is recommended that you take a break every 15 minutes to allow your body time to rest.

Below are some tips to help make this activity less cumbersome.
  • Warm-up before heading outside
    Just like a warm-up is necessary before any aerobic activity, same is true for snow shoveling. Doing a 10 minute warm-up, such as walking in place or doing jumping jacks, before heading outside helps to warm-up and prepare the muscles for the activity and may lessen your risk for injuries.

  • Dress in layers
    Dressing in layers allow you to remove them should you get too warm.

  • Stay well hydrated
    Hydration is just as important in the cold as is it is in the heat of the summer, especially if you sweat a lot or if the air is dry.

  • Choose the proper shovel size
    Choosing a shovel that best fits your height and one that has a small blade will force you to lift or push a smaller amount of snow, therefore putting less strain on your body.

  • Push the snow whenever possible
    Pushing the snow versus lifting and then twisting to toss the snow puts less strain on the back. If you must lift, make sure you lift from your legs and not your back in order to keep from torquing the muscles of the back which could lead to straining of the back muscles.

    Below are links to some exercises that you can do that will help build upper body strength as well as back and leg strength, all which shoul help make snow shoveling easier.

    Lat Pull-Down

    Lateral Raises

    Wall Squats


    Single Arm Dumbbell Row

    Have you had to spend time shoveling snow this winter? Have you taken precautions to avoid injury?

See more: winter exercise