Snowfall is both beautiful and mystical. At the very least, the first few snowstorms of the year! It’s time to haul out the snow toys and sleds, and run outside to enjoy winter activities. 

But as soon as the initial thrill wears off, your focus shifts to the upkeep aspects of winter – and snow removal is one of the biggest ones of all.

Shoveling a light snowfall for 15 minutes is beneficial for most people, as it’s a good form of physical exercise. However, shoveling heavy snowfall is more dangerous than many people realize because it increases the risk of injuries, or even a heart attack.

In fact, in a study published in the Canadian Medical Association, researchers found over 68,000 heart attack deaths happened in Quebec during snow months November to April, between 1981 to 2014.

So before you dig in, here are some safety precautions to keep in mind when shoveling snow.

Warm up

Warm up by doing some slow easy cardio exercise for at least  five minutes before shoveling. Stretching for 10 minutes can also help prepare your muscles for the heavy task ahead. Doing so can help reduce the risk of muscle tears, sprains, and strains.

Pace yourself

Build up slowly when you first begin shoveling, especially if you haven’t been active recently or have a chronic illness or medical condition. Each day, push less snow than the previous day until eventually you are able to push more with each passing day without pause in between pushes for rest periods.

If you have lung disease, heart disease or other illnesses, take precautions before snow shoveling. 

Bundle up and use the right equipment

It is important to choose the right shovel and dress properly. 

Apply a non-stick agent such as cooking spray to your shovel so snow slides off easily. Don’t use a shovel that’s too heavy for you to lift comfortably. 

Shoveling snow requires a great deal of physical exertion and can lead to serious injury if you’re using a tool that’s too cumbersome for your strength level. If it feels like the handle is bending or if lifting the shovel weights your arms excessively, then it’s probably too heavy for you to handle easily.

Use a synthetic material to wick moisture away from your body and keep you comfortable. Then, layer with insulating material such as fleece. Your top layer needs to be water and windproof. 

Wearing double pairs of socks, one made of wicking materials will definitely help. Finally, you’ll need a hat, and even a face mask to warm the air you breathe if it’s extra chilly and windy.

Take it easy

Pushing snow often involves stooping down and heaving heavy loads, so be sure to rest between each push and take frequent breaks if possible.  Try not to take more than 2-3 inches at a time; this will minimize muscle strain and blood pressure fluctuations.

Push snow only as high as you can reach without feeling any physical discomfort. There’s no advantage to pushing snow higher than about waist level and it may cause you to tire more quickly and lead to muscle strain or other injury. 

Also, clearing the snow all at once rather than shoveling a few inches at a time allows for proper ventilation so that the body doesn’t overheat. If there’s too much snow for one person to handle, try breaking it up into smaller portions such as half of the driveway at one time instead of trying to do it all in one pass. 

Shoveling techniques matter

Shovel in the direction of the existing snowfall whenever possible, rather than against it. This helps minimize re-freezing after the job is complete. 

Also take advantage of natural features such as topography when possible; contour around hills or mounds instead of attempting to push through them which could cause problems.

Don’t be shy to ask for help

If it seems  like too much work for one person, try to get someone else to help or hire a neighborhood kid. Shoveling is strenuous on the heart and it’s better to avoid strain whenever possible. 

If you are able-bodied but have trouble with the task anyway, consider hiring an outside company to do the job for you.

Avoid icy areas at all costs

HeatTrak mobility mats

Avoid icy areas such as driveways and sidewalks if they can be avoided, by using non-skid footwear or sandbags on your feet.  If an area is particularly slippery and you don’t have proper footwear, work from the bottom up – clear there first then move to higher levels of snow.

Also consider the benefits of installing outdoor heated mats. Our newest product, The HeatTrak Snow & Ice Melting System is a compact, adaptable solution for melting snow and ice from your home. This system can melt 2 inches of snow and ice per hour by connecting mats with waterproof cables. It’s also safe for pets!

We would be delighted to answer any questions you have about installing these outdoor heated mats in your home. Please call us at 587-317-6933 to schedule a time to discuss your snow melting needs.