By Jason Laporte
DHAC Exercise Physiologist
The temperature has dropped, and it looks like we’re in for another rough winter this year. This is New England, and our crazy winters mean icy roads, frost-bitten fingers, and plenty of snow to shovel. And being New Englanders, we have our own unique shoveling style. Arch the back, now lock the knees, finally torque the spine, and heave!
Stop it! Spare those backs! How? Follow these tips:
First of all, engage that core. Lift the chest, drop the shoulders down and back, pull the belly button in towards the spine. Think about your posture. Don’t slouch, stand up straight. Remember to keep those abs and big back muscles tight.
Next, shovel in hand, slightly bend the knees and hinge forward at the hips. Fill your shovel up with a reasonable load of snow – don’t be a hero.
With the core still engaged, maintain that straight back, and extend carefully through the hips to an upright posture. Carefully walk your snow to its dumping location and pour the load carefully. Can you throw a cinder block five feet backwards over your head with ease? No? Then don’t try to do the same with your snow.
This method may take a little longer, but it’ll save you hours of physical therapy for a herniated disc.
In addition to protecting your back, you should think about your heart. Winter is a peak time for cardiac events. Why? When you go out to shovel, you work hard. You rev up your heart and muscles. Afterwards, you go inside and sit. What happens?
The blood pools down in the big, lower body muscles which have just worked very hard for an extended period. The body tries to get those muscles oxygen and other nutrients putting extra strain on. You got it. Your heart.
Instead, cool down after you shovel. Seriously! Walk lightly for 3-5 minutes. Your leg muscles will serve as a pump to push the blood up your veins and back to your heart. This is an especially important step if you have pre-existing cardiovascular conditions.
So, save your back. Shovel smarter… or ask Santa for a snow blower.