Winter is here in full force and with it comes snow - and lots of it! Shoveling your sidewalk is important in order to maintain safe and accessible pathways for yourself and your neighbours, but it can also be hard on your body, especially your back. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you stay safe when shovelling this winter:
Choose the right shovel: There are ergonomically designed shovels with bent handles that reduce the need to bend over when shoveling. Try to find a shovel with a lighter material (think plastic not metal) so that you’re not adding to your load, as well as a shovel with a handle length that complements your height.
Warm up: Just like you need to warm up before playing sports, you should do a quick warm-up before grabbing that shovel. Especially if the snow is heavy, you can be asking your body to do a lot of work – be nice and let your body ease into it.
Take your time: Don’t rush getting all the work done, especially if you’ve been doing a bit of hibernating through the cold weather. Take breaks along the way, about every 20 to 30 minutes, to let your body catch up to the work, and remember to drink fluids, too.
Watch your form: Avoid the bend and twist movement that can lead to an annoying back injury. Bend with your knees, not with your back, and use your legs to push (not lift) the snow to the side. Keep the shovel blade close to your body to avoid straining your back.
Keep up: Stay on top of the snowfall when possible to avoid having to move large amounts of snow all at once. If a significant amount of snow has piled up, skim it down layer by layer to avoid moving heavy mounds of snow all in one go.
Snow shovelling can be intense exercise, on par with weightlifting, and lower back injuries are common, not to mention that snow shoveling also usually takes place on uneven slippery surfaces. Make sure that you’re dressing for the task (warm clothes, boots and gloves with grip) and preparing your body adequately. Stay safe out there!