A 2011 study published in the Clinical Research in Cardiology revealed that shoveling snow actually does increase the risk of a having a heart attack. The study looked at 500 people and found that 7 percent started experiencing symptoms of heart problems while shoveling snow. The cardiologists conducting the Canadian study felt that while 7 percent is significant, there could be as many as double that number given the fact that the patients may not have connected their heart problems with snow shoveling.
"While heart attacks may be the most serious consequence of shoveling snow, there are other even more common health risks including dehydration, back injuries, pulled muscles, broken bones and frostbite. But the good news is there are ways to safely shovel snow," said Martin B. Tirado, CAE, Executive Director, Snow & Ice Management Association (SIMA), the North American association for snow removal professionals.
Here are safe snow shoveling tips from the SIMA:
TIP #1: Stay on top of the snow. No we aren't suggesting that you make snow angels but when there's a heavy snow, the best advice is to stay ahead of the storm. SIMA recommends that to prevent snow and ice from adhering to the sidewalk or street, clear the snow every few inches instead of waiting for the snow to stop falling before you head outdoors.
TIP #2: Wear breathable layers. Layering is typical cold winter weather advice. We suggest wearing layers of loose clothing so you can peel a layer off if you get hot. Avoid wearing heavy wools, man-made materials or other materials that don't allow perspiration to evaporate. Better choices are cotton and silk.
TIP #3: Watch your feet. No you aren't on Dancing with the Stars, but nonetheless, you need to pay attention to what's on your feet when heading outdoors to shovel snow. SIMA suggests wearing quality outdoor winter wear such as waterproof boots with good traction. Good traction is critical to ensuring that you don't slip and fall.
TIP #4: Take a few minutes to stretch. Shoveling snow is a workout so you need to stretch to warm up your muscles particularly because you are shoveling snow in the cold weather. Stretching before you start shoveling will help prevent injury and fatigue.
TIP #5: Push don't lift. Sounds like something a high school wrestling coach may say but if you push the snow to the side rather than trying to lift the snow to remove it, you exert less energy thereby placing less stress on your body.
TIP #6: Drink up! Water that is. SIMA recommends taking frequent breaks and staying hydrated. You should drink water as if you were enduring a tough workout at the gym or running five miles.
TIP #7: Don't play in traffic. Sometimes people get so focused on the task at hand they don't pay attention to their surroundings. When shoveling snow near streets, pay attention to the traffic since vehicles may not have good traction in the snow and ice.
TIP #8: Call and text. We're not suggesting that you make calls and text while shoveling snow, but it is important to have your cell phone on you so you can make a call in event of an emergency.