How to Shovel Snow Like a Pro

Whether you’re faced with three inches or three feet, shoveling can take a toll on your back. Here’s how to do it right

We’re used to winter storms that dump massive amounts of snow on our region. For those tasked with a little digging in order to clear walkways and driveways, here’s how to shovel snow properly, courtesy of Rhinebeck’s Topical Biomedics:

Stay hydrated. Your body uses more water in winter than in the summer: it takes a lot of energy to keep warm, and the heat generated to maintain a stable temperature uses up moisture. Drink plenty of water and avoid coffee, non-herbal teas, and sodas as caffeine is dehydrating.

Dress in layers for thermal protection. You can peel them off as your body heats up. You’ll want to keep dry, too — especially your feet — since wetness intensifies the damage cold weather does to your body. Wear a hat, scarf, gloves or mittens, quality socks, and waterproof footwear.

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Protect your face, ears, and eyes. UV protection is important, and polarized sunglasses will prevent “snow blinding” as the sun glares off snow. Use goggles to prevent wind chill. Because the nose and ears are easily frostbitten and cold air breathed into lungs is harmful, wear a face mask if you expect to be outdoors for any length of time or when the temperature drops below 21°F.

Stretch and warm up. Cold muscles are more easily injured. Remember to stretch and cool down afterward!

Stay ahead of the game. It’s easier to remove snow in thin layers than wait until all the snow has fallen. With major storms, try to get out and shovel in several passes.

Invest in an ergonomic snow shovel. One with a curved or adjustable-length handle will minimize bending while keeping the shovel blade on the ground. Choose a smaller, lighter model to prevent strain and injury, and use your knees to lift instead of your back.

Related: Shoveling Snow Can Cause Heart Attacks

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Maintain proper posture:

  • Use leg muscles as much as possible, pushing the snow when you can. Use your legs to lift when you can’t push it.
  • Keep your back straight as you move from a squat to an upright position.
  • Hold the shovel close to your upper body, and use your shoulder muscles as much as possible.
  • Do not twist your upper body as you throw snow. Pace yourself and lift light loads to prevent strain and injury.

Do not shovel after eating or while smoking.

Stop and rest once your breathing becomes heavy and labored and you feel yourself getting stressed. Don’t let your heart race.

Check with your doctor if you have a medical problem. Snow shoveling places a great deal of stress on the heart, so if you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, speak with your doctor about whether or not you should undertake the task.

Purchase a pair of Yaktrax. Named after the sure-footed Tibetan Yak, these ice traction devices for shoes help you keep your footing on snow and ice while shoveling or even walking to the mailbox.

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Before and after outdoor activity, apply a pain relief and healing cream. When applied beforehand, it helps maintain a more constant blood flow while you shovel; applied afterward, it stimulates blood flow to chilled extremities to warm up quickly. It also eases the aches and pains of exertion by allowing the body to heal the damage that’s causing the pain.

Share more tips below. Be safe, Hudson Valley!

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