Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Brilliantly Sensible Strategy for Shoveling Snow at Any Age

If you’ve been told by a medical professional that you should not shovel snow because of a MEDICAL CONDITION that could harm or kill you, then you should read this blog post only if you have nothing better to do and need to kill a little time.

On the other hand, if you’ve been told by a friend or loved one that you should not shovel snow because you are TOO OLD, you should read this blog post and wonder why that certain someone would want to turn you into a wimp.

To begin with, I am not going to post obvious warnings, such as: Do Not Overdue It! If you are now in your seventies and are still capable of physical activity, you probably did not get there by making an absurd number of stupid and reckless decisions – just the normal number that we all have made and have managed to get away with.

So, grab your shovel – either physically or mentally – and let’s get to it.


Step #1: Approach snow shoveling as an exercise workout.

Focus on your muscles and posture, and not just on moving the snow.

Step #2: Warm-up your muscles before you begin.

Spend a few minutes loosening up your shoulders, hips and low back before going out into the cold and lifting snow.

Step #3: Decide roughly how much snow you’re going to shovel before you take a break.

As with doing a heavy workout, you are going to pause for rest and recovery. You will get more out of your muscles if you do.

Step #4: Work efficiently. Decide where you are going to place the snow you shovel.

Do not end up having to move piles of snow that you’ve already shoveled.

Step # 5: Do not lift with your knees. Lift with your hips.

Do not shovel while bending forward at the waist, with a rounded back. This places unnecessary strain on your low back and your knees. Instead, push your hips and butt back (a hip-hinge), and keep your back flat, not rounded.

Step #6: Come up to tall posture as you lift the snow.

This will help engage your core muscles and relieve the strain on your lower back.

Step #7: Do not throw the snow. Dump it.

Throwing the snow works against gravity and will needlessly fatigue your muscles. Instead, carry the snow to your pre-planned dump spot and simply let it drop from the shovel, working with the force of gravity, rather than against it.

Step #9: When walking with a shovel full of snow, maintain tall posture.

Do not walk bent forward at the waist, placing strain on your low back muscles.

Step #9: Avoid twisting your spine.

There is a natural inclination to rotate at the waist when picking up and dropping snow. It may save time, but presents another opportunity for low back strain. Instead, walk and drop.

Step #10: Do not work exclusively from one side of your body. In other words, make sure that you are shoveling as much with your left hand on the handle as with your right hand on the handle.

When shoveling or carrying snow, the hand that grips the shaft of the shovel bears most of the weight. You can feel the muscle engagement all the way up that arm. Your shoveling exercise will be more efficient by sharing that load equally between each arm.

A final piece of advice: Listen to your body! If you feel pain anywhere, you should stop immediately! If you find yourself out of breath, or your muscles overly fatigued, you should stop and rest.

But, as long as you are working in a brilliantly sensible groove, relax and enjoy your workout.

Bruce Coltin
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
YMCA Trainer
At Home Fitness Trainer for Older Bodies