Monday, December 22, 2014

Prepare for the Everyday: Snow Shoveling Safety

Prepare for the Everyday: Snow Shoveling Safety

by Kelly Keenan, JCPH Emergency Preparedness Program

Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) believes that it's important for individuals to prepare for emergencies that may impact themselves and their families. While we often think about major events when we talk about preparedness, it is also important to plan and prepare for some of our more routine activities so that they don’t become emergencies. One example of this is shoveling snow during a winter storm. 

Many of us consider shoveling to be a chore rather than exercise; however it is basically lifting weights at an aerobic pace. Shoveling snow for just 30 minutes can burn between 180-266 calories, which is comparable to downhill skiing or swimming. Every year people hurt themselves while shoveling, from minor injuries to fatal heart attacks[1], so it is important to take shoveling snow seriously.

Here are a few tips to keep you safe while shoveling snow:

Dress warm, but not too warm. It is important to stay warm to avoid frostbite and hyperthermia, however being too warm can be hazardous as well. It is common to sweat while being active even if it is very cold outside. Sweating will cause the body to chill, which is exactly what you are trying to avoid. Dress in layers so that garments can be removed as the intensity of the activity increases.

Use proper technique. Start each movement by bending at the knees, like you are about to sit into a chair. Keep your back straight and engage the core (this feels similar to “sucking it in”). Stand up by using your legs to push you up rather than by trying to pull the snow up with your back. Alternate the side of the body the shovel is on to help keep your upper body balanced.  

Know your limits. Take your time and take breaks as you need them. If you feel any warning signs of a heart attack, seek medical attention immediately.
View the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web page on winter outdoor safety.
Jefferson County Public Health  Health Communications/PIO 303-239-7137.

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