It has been a relatively light winter for snow. Most of us haven’t had to shovel for weeks, so our bodies might be pretty sore after today. But clearing sidewalks and driveways does not have to be backbreaking! Here is your quick guide to safe shovelling.
Invest in a proper ergonomic shovel. These shovels are lighter and reduce the amount of bending needed which reduces strain on your back. Proper winter footwear provides extra stability and traction for slippery surfaces (plus they keep your toes warm!) and using salt or gravel will further increase traction which reduce the risk of slipping.
Warm up first
Although bundling up in all those layers may seem like a warm-up in itself, its important to take a few moments to jog in place, run up some stairs or do some jumping jacks. By getting moving before physical activity you’re bringing more blood flow (and thus more nutrients and oxygen) to the muscles which makes them more pliable and less susceptible to injury.
Being well hydrated is incredibly important–not just after exercise! Water helps to not only lubricate muscles but to also energize them by bringing oxygen molecules to aid in the contraction of individual muscles fibers and thus overall muscle efficiency. Skeletal muscles like your biceps and hamstrings are not the only ones who benefit from being well hydrated; cardiac muscle, nerves, the brain and joints all function better when well watered! In cold weather our thirst response decreases so the risk of being dehydrated increases–so drink up!
Work at your own pace
Do not work faster than is comfortable, doing so could result in a painful injury. Take breaks when you need them! During outdoor activity it is always a good idea to head inside periodically to have something to drink to stay well hydrated, especially in the winter.
Lift smaller loads –either with a smaller shovel, more frequently as it falls or smaller amounts of snow per scoop to avoid straining muscles and joints. Remember to bend at the knees to lift snow, contract your core and be mindful of your posture. Push snow rather than lifting it, if possible. And if you must lift, avoid twisting at the waist, turn your feet to the direction you are moving the load. Check out a previous blog post about posture while bending, carrying and lifting for more tips on moving loads safely. Use salt or gravel to create a more stable surface to prevent slipping.
Our final tip is to defer shoveling if necessary. If you are injured, ask someone else to do the shovelling until you are healed, or consider hiring someone to clear the snow for you (if there aren’t any local kids for hire there are accredited businesses the Better Business Bureau suggests ). We frequently suggest our clients to hold off on shoveling after treatment days so they may obtain the full effects of their treatment. That’s the thing about snow in Winnipeg– it’ll still be there tomorrow!!