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Things you should know before shovelling snow

Shovelling snow is strenuous activity that can be very stressful on the heart. It's best to talk to your doctor about this activity and your health before digging in. Safe snow shovelling requires proper tools, good technique and most importantly, knowing the signs of when to stop. Read these tips to make sure you're staying safe while clearing snow.


How to prepare

Stay hydrated - Drink water to avoid getting dehydrated; this is a task that requires a lot of energy.

Warm up - Walk around or march in place to warm up your body before-hand. 

Think twice - If you 
have had a heart attack or have other forms of heart disease, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels, are a smoker, a senior or lead a sedentary lifestyle, you should consider looking for help from a student or friendly neighbour.

The best technique

Start slow and early - New snow is lighter so the quicker you get to it, the easier it is to shovel. Try shovelling for 5-7 minutes and then resting for 2-3 minutes. Take frequent breaks.

Move it right - Always try to push snow instead of lifting it and when it's deep, shovel small amounts at a time. 

Watch your back - Lift properly and safely by holding the shovel close to your body, bend from your knees not your back, tighten your stomach muscles while lifting, avoid twisting while lifting and walk to dump snow instead of throwing it.


Tools of the trade

Shovel - A shovel that is sturdy, yet lightweight, with a curved handle is the best option to help prevent injury and fatigue.

Clothes - Wear layers that cover as much skin as possible. Make sure your hat and scarf don't cover your vision and keep your fingers warm with mittens or gloves.

Footwear - Boots with no-slip/skid rubber soles are your best bet to help you avoid slipping around. If the ground is slippery, spread salt, sand or kitty litter to create better traction.


When to stop

Stop shovelling and call 911 if you have:

  • discomfort or heaviness in the chest, arms or neck

  • unusual or prolonged shortness of breath

  • a dizzy or faint feeling

  • excessive sweating or nausea and vomiting

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