The days are getting shorter and the temperature is starting to drop, that means snow will soon be on its way. Shoveling snow is an unavoidable task that those of us living in snow-prone areas must contend with.
Snow shoveling is not only an inconvenience, it can also be hard on your your body — your back in particular. But with proper snow shoveling tips and techniques you can get the job done without putting too much strain on your body.
Choosing the Right Snow Shovel
An astonishing number of people are injured every year as the result of improper snow shoveling or overdoing it.
The number one contributing factor to snow shoveling injuries? Using a non-ergonomic shovel. Many shovels are poorly designed which leads to injury. Here are tips for finding the right shovel:
- Keep the scoop size moderate. Instinctively, you may want to go for the shovel that has the largest bucket capacity. But it also means your body is lifting and tossing a heavier load which puts immense strain on your body. We recommend choosing a shovel with a bucket between 18-22 inches.
- Choose a scoop material that works for you. Snow shovels are made from a few different materials. The main choices are: steel, plastic and aluminum. Each material comes with its advantages and disadvantages. For example, a steel shovel will be quite heavy in comparison to a plastic shovel but, will hold up better than plastic to driveway scraping.
- The shaft material of the shovel is important as well. You want to choose a shaft that is study and doesn’t bend and twist when you use it. You may need to invest a bit more, but a fiberglass or resin handle is your best bet as they are lightweight and durable.
- Pay attention to ergonomics. There is a big difference between an “ergonomically” designed snow shovel and a standard shovel. Many ergonomic shovels have a slightly curved shaft, while a traditional shovel will have a straight shaft.
The ergonomic shovel is designed to reduce strain on your back by reducing the amount of bending you have to do when scooping the snow. These shovels will cost you a bit more, but it is well worth the money to save the back strain that comes with traditional shovels.
Pushing vs. Lifting
It is always less stressful on the body to push the snow rather than lifting it.
You can purchase specialized snow shovels that are designed to push snow. These shovels have a large plow on the front. You can also push snow with your regular snow shovel.
If you are able, push the snow out of the way rather than bend, scoop, lift and toss the snow. You will greatly reduce strain on your body.
Besides choosing the correct shovel and using proper technique, there are many other things that you can do to make sure you stay safe and injury free while clearing your snow.
- Make sure you are in good health. Heavy snow shoveling snow over an extended period of time becomes a cardiovascular activity. Check with your doctor to make sure that you in good physical shape to shovel snow. Elderly individuals and those with a heart condition are typically warned to stay away from shoveling as they are more prone to serious injury.
- Dress for the weather. Make sure that your body is covered and warm, but be aware of overheating in those extra layers. Check the weather to see what the conditions are outside and dress appropriately. There may be a good window of opportunity for you to shovel snow without working in very rough conditions.
- Take breaks. If you have to work during a heavy snowfall or when you have a large area to shovel, don’t try to do it all at once. Pace yourself and take a rest every so often, and stay hydrated.
- Track the weather. During a large snow storm when snow is expected throughout the day, plan on going out to shovel several times. Don’t wait until the storm is over to try to clear the snow, this will only lead to heavier more compact snow that is more difficult to remove.
- Always bend with your knees. To avoid putting excess strain on your back, bend at the knees to use those larger muscles to move the snow. Try not to bend at the waist and keep your back straight. A solid stance is also important — try to keep your legs hip-width apart and avoid twisting your torso.
Stay injury-free this winter and get the job done without taxing your body while you brave the cold and snow!