The winter months can be gruelling and disliked by many not only because of the cold temperatures, but the varying outdoor activities that can become very dangerous.
In the case of snow shovelling, it is possible that a person’s energy output from shovelling exceeded what his or her body was capable of producing. But there’s more than just shovelling at play here. Many people are working outside without proper clothing, particularly without hats or scarves. This is an important factor because the body loses a significant amount of heat through the head and neck. So if a person were exerting himself or herself shovelling snow on a very cold day without a hat, the body would work harder, or spend more energy, to try to stay warm. These two factors, combined with the fact that a person might not be physically fit to tackle the driveway with a shovel, could produce enough stress to cause a serious medical condition.
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 shovelling.
To minimize the effects of shovelling:
- Don't shovel snow after smoking, or eating a heavy meal -- these activities all 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 your nose and mouth to avoid breathing cold air.
- Wear a hat to retain body heat.
- Pace yourself 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.