By Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D., former Nutrition Specialist, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension
As the winter weather hits, keep in mind that outdoor activities can be risky. Snow shoveling can be especially dangerous. Exercise experts say shoveling heavy snow requires as much energy as running 9 miles per hour! In addition, breathing cold air and being exposed to the cold all make the heart work harder.
If you are over 45, sedentary, smoke, have elevated blood pressure, are overweight, and/or have a heart condition, play it safe and get someone else to do the shoveling. Experts warn that snow shoveling is not the exercise to use to start getting in shape.
To prevent injury:Don't shovel snow after smoking or eating a heavy meal. These activities put an extra load on our cardiovascular system. Dress in layers so clothing can be peeled off as the body becomes warm. Overheating puts extra strain on the heart. Wear a scarf over nose and mouth to avoid breathing cold air. Wear a hat to retain body heat. Pace yourself by taking frequent rest breaks. Shovel safely by bending legs slightly at the knee, letting thigh muscles do most of the pushing and lifting work — this will reduce strain on the heart and back. Use a shovel with a small scoop and keep loads light and small. Stay hydrated! You are sweating more than you realize. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids before and after shoveling to replenish the fluids lost in the process.
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