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Friday, 22 November 2013

Shoveling to Avoid Injury

For those of us living in central and northern Alberta over the last few weeks, we have had to break out the snow shovels and ice chippers.  Making sure your walks and driveways are shoveled is not only a safety factor for you but those who also use those sidewalks and steps.  When taking on the task of shoveling there are a few key steps you can take to prevent injuring yourself as well as how to be safe for everyone.

As with most everything else in life having the right tools for the job is extremely important.  When buying a shovel proper height and weight for your body will help you avoid injury and do the job more efficiently.  You should not need to hunch over when standing with your shovel.  Heavier is not always better, the shovel needs to be well built but not too heavy, lifting it in the store with no snow on it is great but you need to take in account the increased load that the snow will add.

Preparing to go outside to shovel is half of the battle.  Not only must you get yourself psyched up to do it, because lets be honest who likes to shovel snow.  Wearing the proper attire will not only make the job go quicker but also a lot smoother.  Wear layers.  Snow shoveling is a very physical activity, start layering as you would if you were to go outside and exercise.  Wear fabrics that wick away moisture and that keep a layer of warm dry air near your body to keep you warm.  Your outer layer should be wind and water resistant.  There are a wide variety of cold weather gear out there.  Find the one that suits your needs the best.  Cover your head, 50% of our bodies heat can be lost through the head.  In extreme cold weather cover your nose and mouth to help decrease the amount of cold air that is entering your lungs.  Warm hands and feet will also make your task more comfortable, use gloves that allow you to hold the shovel and will keep your hands not only warm but dry as well.  Proper footwear is key.  Wear warm socks and boots that provide warmth, water resistance and good traction.  If your winter boots or work boots do not have good grips add on some ice cleats or traction aids.

Once you are outside and ready to begin, push the snow as much as possible.  The less you lift and throw the better.  When you do need to lift make sure you use your knees and not your back.  Do not throw over your head or shoulder height as this will put unnecessary strain on your upper back and shoulders.  Take breaks as needed and keep hydrated.  If you are not physically fit take your time, no matter your fitness level take breaks as needed.  Snow shoveling is a physical activity that combines cardiovascular exercise, weight lifting, balance and coordination, and we all must take breaks and be aware of our level of fatigue.  As we tire our body will become more prone to injuries and have a harder time keeping warm.

Snow shoveling can be a great way to get some extra exercise in during the cold months of the year, however it is only beneficial if you remain injury free.  By shoveling our walks, driveways and steps not only are you making your  home safe for yourself and your family but your guests and those who use the sidewalks daily.

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