We all know how tough Canadian winters can be with cold temperatures, heavy snowfall, and high winds. With cold temperatures and snow comes every Canadian’s least favourite chore: shovelling. In addition to being one of the more unpleasant winter tasks, snow shovelling can also be dangerous. You could pull a muscle, you could slip and fall or you could over exert yourself.
In some cases, the consequences are more serious. A study from the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed a link between heart attacks and shovelling. Does that mean you have a permanent excuse to force your kids to shovel? Not quite. Keep reading for a few simple tips and tricks that will keep you safe while shovelling this year.
Why do people die shovelling snow?
While most people won't have a problem, shovelling snow can put some people at risk of a heart attack. Sudden exertion, like moving hundreds of pounds of snow after being sedentary for several months, can put a big strain on the heart. Pushing a heavy snow blower also can cause injury. Cold weather can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. It can make your blood clot more easily and constrict arteries, which decreases blood supply.
Snow and ice removal requirements
It's true that there is a risk of heart attack while shovelling. That doesn't mean you should avoid shovelling snow entirely. Failing to remove snow can result in damage to your property in the long run. It may also increase the risk of yourself or someone else slipping and falling on your property. You will still need to shovel, but follow the tips below to do so in the safest manner possible.
Preparing to shovel snow
In order to shovel snow safely, you can take a few steps before picking up the shovel:
- Stretch before you start shovelling to prevent injury.
- Dress in layers to stay warm.
- Remember to breathe.
- Take breaks! If you don't take breaks you might over-exert your self and you might even walk away injured. This is especially true if you're often sedentary.
- Our top tip: spray your shovel with cooking spray. This will allow your shovel to cut right through the snow and make things a lot easier.
Proper shovelling technique
Proper form and technique will help keep you safe while shovelling. Once you step outside and start wielding your shovel, remember the following:
- Bend your knees and lift with your legs.
- As you lift the snow, keep the shovel blade close to you, to reduce back strain.
- Switch off between snow shovelling right-handed and left-handed so you're working different muscles.
- Periodically change your grip on whichever hand of yours is holding the bar (palm under vs. palm over).
- When snowfall is heavy (about one foot deep), don't try to clean right down to the ground with a single scoop. Instead, skim the top six inches off, then scoop up the bottom six inches. Otherwise, you could hurt yourself by lifting too much.
When is someone too old to shovel?
There is no one answer to this question. Everyone is different and has different levels of health. In order to extend your shovelling years, make sure you exercise frequently and eat a healthy diet. If you're concerned about over-exerting yourself while shovelling, talk to your doctor before the snow starts to fall.
No matter how old you are, here are a few tips that will make shovelling a little bit easier:
- Get the whole family involved! If everyone helps out, the work will be done faster. You might even have fun doing it! Reward yourselves with some hot cocoa after.
- Start shovelling right away. Don't wait for it to stop snowing. You might spend a little bit more time shovelling, but it will be easier, and there's less chance you'll over-exert yourself.
- Stay hydrated. Just because it's cold out doesn't mean it's any less important to drink lots of water.
- Call in the pros. There's no shame in hanging up the shovel. If you're concerned for your health, or if you simply don't want to brave the cold, find a neighbour or local business who will do the work for you.
FAQs on Snow Shovelling Safety Tips
At what age should you stop shovelling snow?
That depends on your personal health. If you're concerned, talk to your doctor before the snow starts to fall.
Should I shovel while it’s still snowing?
Yes! Even if you spend a little bit more time shovelling, it will be easier than shovelling a large amount of snow all at once. Pick up the shovel once in a while as snow is still falling.
Should you salt before it snows?
While many people put salt down after shovelling, rock salt is actually meant to be put down before snow falls to keep the snow from sticking. It makes shovelling easier too!