Snow! Even if you’re an old hand at snow shoveling, these common-sense safety precautions can prevent a snow day from becoming an “oh, no” day.

Shovel snow safely

  1. Check with your health care provider if you have not had a physical in the last year.
  2. Always warm up with a walk around the yard or perform some light calisthenics and stretching.
  3. Dress appropriately. Wearing layers of clothing provides the best insulation to trap body heat and avoid excessive sweating.
  4. Don’t rush. Pace yourself and take a break every few minutes, whether you need it or not.
  5. Drink water to stay hydrated.
  6. Try pushing the snow instead of lifting and throwing it, or use a smaller shovel. An average shovel of snow weighs between 15 and 20 pounds.
  7. Shovel with knees bent and back straight. Avoid sudden, rapid twisting of the waist or throwing snow over the shoulder, which puts excessive pressure on the lower back.
  8. If the snow is deep, do not try to shovel all the snow at one time. Remove it in layers.
  9. Avoid shoveling on a full stomach. Wait an hour or longer after a large meal.
  10. Avoid shoveling on an empty stomach. Have a small snack 30 minutes before shoveling.
  11. Avoid alcohol or caffeine before shoveling, which can raise heart rate and blood pressure.

When to stop

Stop shoveling if you experience any of the following. You may need to seek medical attention immediately if you experience:

  • Neck pain.
  • Back pain.
  • Chest pain or pressure.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Tingling or pain in the hands, arms or shoulders.
  • Lightheadedness/dizziness.
  • Feeling that your heart is racing or skipping beats.
  • If you become very tired.

When to leave the shoveling to someone else

Any combination of the following increases your risk of a cardiac event when shoveling snow. Unless you have consulted with your health care provider, you should not shovel snow if you:

  • Are over age 40.
  • Have heart problems.
  • Have a family history of heart disease.
  • Have high cholesterol.
  • Have high blood pressure.
  • Are overweight.
  • Are physically inactive.
  • Are a smoker.

If you have health concerns, consider investing in a snow blower. Remember the best safety tip for shoveling snow: Hire or have someone do it for you. Seek out someone in your neighborhood who might like to earn some money shoveling snow. It may be a great way to get to know others in your community too.