December 29, 2016

Make Snow Shoveling a Safer Workout

Winter weather often means snowfall here in New England, and with that comes the inevitable shoveling. Clearing snow can be a great workout though, if you know the safe way to do it. Whether it’s clearing your driveway, walkway, or just a quick path out your front door – don’t let this winter exercise become a pain in your…back. Simply knowing the proper way to move can help protect you and your back from a trip to the medicine cabinet, or worse, the emergency room. Follow the steps below to burn calories and move snow like a pro!

1. Tools Matter

If you can, it may be worthwhile to invest in an ergonomic shovel. These are designed to put even less stress on you back and shoulders, while minimizing bending – all of which are great, especially if you have a lot of snow to move. Try to get the lightest (while still remaining sturdy) shovel you can manage as well – no need to add extra weight, as snow can be heavy enough on its own.

2. Warm-up

Its easy to forget that clearing snow is a workout as well as a to-do item. Shoveling for an hour can burn up to 500 calories though! So treat your time in the snow as you would all exercise. Stretch beforehand, especially your back and shoulders. Consider taking a quick, brisk walk to get your blood pumping. Don’t forget to check out our Cold Weather Workout Checklist if you plan to do your warm-up outside.

2. The Correct Shoveling Form

It isn’t complicated to shovel snow correctly, but it is easy to do it wrong. We break the total motion down for you into four steps:

Make Snow Shoveling a Safer Workout

Pick up your shovel and face towards the snow you’re lifting, shoulders and hips square. Position your hands on the shovel a good distance apart, keeping one on the end of the handle. The heaver the snow, the closer one hand should be towards the blade.

Make Snow Shoveling a Safer Workout

Bend at the hips and knees prevent low back strain. Scoop your snow and return to a standing position using your knees, not your back. Keep each load of snow relatively light.

Make Snow Shoveling a Safer Workout

Rotate your body and feet towards where you wish to toss the snow. Do not just pivot at the waist. Toss your snow gently away. Do not try to toss the snow long distances. Instead, walk to your snow pile.

Make Snow Shoveling a Safer Workout

For packed snow, use a chopping motion to break it up into more manageable chunks.

4. Pace Yourself

A large driveway or long walkway to shovel can be overwhelming. Try tackling it in short bouts, with plenty of breaks. Remember that each shovel load should be small, as a few heavy shovel-fulls will wear you out much faster than many tiny ones.  If your snow is deep, attack it from the top down. Shovel it in layers off the top until you reach the ground.

As with all forms of exercise, remember to stay hydrated and to listen to your body. Take your time and try not to rush, as hurting yourself will certainly not speed things up. For more fitness tips on surviving the Boston winter, check out other posts in our Winter Workout Survival Series.