Snow covered trees, skating, snowmen, skiing...winter brings many fun activities and beautiful sights. Unfortunately, it also comes with an increased risk of injuries for many, with 31% of Canadians citing shovelling as a source of back and joint pain.
How to lower your risk of developing injuries
Here are a few tips to help you lower your risk of developing injuries while shovelling this winter:
1. Shovel frequently on snowy days
If you leave snow out there for too long, you’ll have a lot of snow to move, some of which will be packed snow due to people walking on it. Be proactive and get out every 3-4 hours if possible to shovel on snowy days.
2. Use a shovel that’s light and shoes with a good grip.
Try to use light shovel with a long handle and a good handgrip. Use a pair of microspikes/traction cleats over your shoes to improve grip in the snow.
3. Prepare the environment and start early
Consider salting your driveway in advance to help prevent slips and falls when shovelling. If it’s snowing the entire day, consider shovelling off a few inches of snow at a time rather than waiting until the snow stops.
4. Do warm-ups and exercise regularly.
This helps to maintain your strength and cardiovascular fitness. The better your fitness level, the easier it’ll be to shovel. Aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week.
If you don’t know how to get started, consider working with a kinesiologist or personal trainer. If you are able, try to stretch or do squats for about 10 minutes before shovelling.
5. Take frequent breaks
You don’t need to shovel your entire sidewalk in one go. Consider setting a timer for 5 to 10 minutes and taking a 5 minutes stretch break when your alarm rings.
6. Get power from your leg muscles, not your back.
To do this, bend your knees and then straighten them as you push the snow forward or to the side.
7. Avoid repetitive twisting motions.
Instead, think about pushing snow in straight lines.
Remember not to push yourself
While shovelling can provide good exercise, it can also put you at risk. If you aren’t particularly active, picking up a shovel and moving heavy snow can put a big strain on your muscles or, even worse, your heart.
Individuals of advanced age and/or with health conditions such as arthritis and cardiovascular issues should consult a healthcare professional before participating in strenuous shovelling.
If you start feeling pain (or increasing pain) or feel very out of breath, you should take a break immediately.