Forecasters are predicting one of the snowiest winters in years. But is your body prepared to handle the physical stress of shoveling?
Snow shoveling quickens heartbeat, dilates blood vessels, and boosts stress hormones. All these factors can combine to cause a heart attack in people with heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or who smoke.
Before grabbing your snow shovel, Indiana University Health cardiologists recommend training your heart for safe shoveling with daily aerobic exercise. Simple steps include parking farther away from the front door or taking the stairs in lieu of the elevator. It’s akin to getting ready for a marathon: strengthening the heart before the snow flies equips it to handle the future stress of heavy shoveling.
The Scoop on Snow Shoveling
Pick the right shovel: Opt for a shovel with a small blade and curved handle. Experts say moving many light loads is easier on the body’s cardiovascular system and muscles than is handling a fewer number of weightier ones. For the same reason, push (rather than lift) the snow when possible.
Pace Yourself: Begin shoveling slowly to avoid a sudden demand on your heart or back. Listen to your body, and take breaks as needed.
Good news/Sad news: A 170-pound person burns about 250 calories by shoveling for 30 minutes. But researchers consistently report an increase in fatal heart attacks among shovelers after big snows.