As the weather gets colder and my husband works later I am beginning to think about how I will have to start shoveling snow in the very near future. This may be a good thing since my workouts have been getting less and less with work, the girls, and well; it seems like just about everything.
I was reading this study in the Journal of the American Medical Association about the demands of shoveling heavy snow on the cardiovascular system. They observed 10 healthy men (average age of 32) who completed 10 minutes of manual shoveling. Heart rates were then compared to these same men after performing a max arm cycling test and a max treadmill test. At the 10 minute mark of manual shoveling, the average heart rate of the participants was at approximately 97% of their max heart rates!
Another source I read stated that on average a person who weighs 200 pounds can burn over 400 calories when shoveling heavy snow for 30 minutes!
Now that I know exactly how taxing it is on the cardiovascular system, I just wanted to post a few tips to help all of us perform this activity safely.
1 1. It’s important to warm up before shoveling snow. This may sound silly, but this can’t be looked at as a chore, it needs to be looked at as high intensity exercise. Walk around a little bit to loosen up the muscles and get the blood flowing. Do a few planks, wall push-ups and some stretches for your legs so your body is ready for the high demand you are going to place on it. Then stretch out afterward before you run in for your hot chocolate!
2 2. Lift correctly!! Bending incorrectly, twisting, or carrying heavy loads of snow can lead to back and hamstring injuries. Make sure to always use your legs when lifting snow and tighten your lower abdominal muscles. Keep the shovel as close to your body as possible and when you go to throw the snow away, use your quads and butt muscles to extend your legs instead of your back. Don’t twist!!
3 3. Don’t try to lift heavier loads of snow than you can handle. Instead, take lighter loads, practice using your stomach and leg muscles to enhance your workout. It may add 15 minutes to your snow shoveling time, but it will prevent future low back injuries in the long run.
So I am trying hard to stop being annoyed at the falling snow, but instead look at all the fitness benefits it can offer me. Remember, snow shoveling is a high – intensity workout that can raise heart rate and blood pressure higher than treadmill running, so be safe. I may even find my Christmas spirit and help out my neighbor….then I can afford to eat a few more Christmas cookies!
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