If you think you’re more of a Chad than that heaping pile of snow on your doorstep, think again: Each year, around 11,500 Americans end up in an ER for injuries related to shoveling snow, about 100 of which are fatal — largely heart attacks.
While it might not be obvious, shoveling snow can be especially dangerous for a few reasons. For one, many people who shovel snow (and many people, period) rarely exercise, so heaving a giant mountain of slush can put a serious strain on the heart. That’s because shoveling snow is much more of a workout than you might expect: It can burn about 223 calories in 30 minutes, which is comparable to vigorous weightlifting for the same amount of time, and it works the muscles in your legs, core, back, shoulders and arms.
Worse yet, the cold weather amplifies that strain on the heart, since it raises blood pressure, hinders blood flow by causing blood vessels to narrow and makes blood more likely to form clots — all of which sets the stage for a heart attack.
So, how can you not die while shoveling the enormous snow pile from your property? There are a few options…
Warm Up and Know the Best Way to Shovel Snow
Walking around for a few minutes is one of the simplest ways to warm up before shoveling snow, as is stretching the muscles in your arms, shoulders, legs, stomach and back. Once you step outside, shovel several light loads instead of heaving the whole pile at once, and take breaks if you start to feel winded. Hot chocolate, anyone?
Become Stronger Than the Snow
“The biggest issue folks have when shoveling snow is usually related to a weak core, or not using their core,” says decorated personal trainer Jonathan Jordan. “So you instead end up moving wonkily through your lower back, and that’s when disaster happens. The best core move for this is called a Paloff Press. You can do this using a cable machine in any gym.” It looks like this:
Or, if you’re at home and have resistance bands, you can perform the Paloff Press like this:
Work Smarter, Not Harder
If you have a history of heart problems, haven’t stood up in over a year or just don’t feel confident in your ability to shovel a gigantic mound of snow, you may want to call in some reinforcements. That may come in the form of a snow and ice melter, which will at least eat through some of the ice on your driveway. Or you might consider slipping your friendly neighborhood teenager a twenty to have them shovel for you. After all, what good is a shoveled doorstep if you’re dead as a doornail?