The first thing to realize about shoveling is that it's hard and strenuous work. Every year we hear on the news about someone who suffered a fatal heart attack shoveling, and what we probably don't hear about are the far larger number of people who suffer some sort of injury. If you are not someone that regularly does strenuous exercise for extended periods, you probably shouldn't be pushing yourself outside when it's cold and slippery.
If you are going to do some shoveling then you want to use the proper technique. Since our Fitness For Life philosophy is built on functionality, all of the work we do with patients and clients in therapy or training apply. Here are a few pointers:
1 - It's better to push the snow than to carry it: Don't put a constant load on your body when you could use the ground as your assistant and push the snow out of the way.
2 - Keep your knees bent and don't arch your back.
3 - Don't turn at the waist, instead step to the side: Most people shovel by picking up a bunch of snow, then rotation their body at the waist while their legs stay stationary. This technique is dangerous as you are putting a heavy load on your spine and then twisting it. The safer way is to step and pivot from one side to the other, keeping your spine straight throughout.
4 - Regardless of if you are pushing the snow or carrying it, pull in your abs: All activities are made safer and more efficient by using your core and pulling in your abs when exerting your body.
4 - Don't hold your breath: Many people have a tendency to hold their breath when doing a major exertion, like picking up something heavy. This creates a dangerous internal pressure that increases the risk of injury. Remember to exhale on the exertion, which in this case is when you are picking up the snow or pushing it.
5 - Don't leave your good form at the gym: As we discussed in this previous post, the proper weight-lifting technique you have learned is even more important to adhere to when doing something functional.