Associations: Be Careful Shoveling That Snow

Associations are warning that cleaning up after a snowstorm is a much more difficult job than it may seem, especially for your heart. Here are a few tips to stay safe as you shovel.

Still trying to dig out from the big East Coast snowstorm that hit over the weekend? Be sure to pace yourself.

That’s the message from a couple of associations to those looking to get out from under the white stuff—the removal of which, if done improperly, can be detrimental to your health.

“Shoveling snow has a number of health risks associated with it, including the most serious one—a heart attack,” Martin Tirado, executive director of the Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA), told

The American Heart Association (AHA) notes on its website that working hard outdoors in cold temperatures puts a lot of extra stress on the heart.

“For people with existing heart conditions like heart failure, high blood pressure, or cholesterol, the increased workload on the heart from activities such as shoveling of heavy snow can put them at higher risk for heart attack,” AHA board member James Lyons, M.D., noted.

AHA’s recommendations for shovelers: Take frequent breaks, avoid large meals before or after shoveling, use smaller shovels, and refrain from consuming alcohol before or after. And if you experience physical distress, call 911 within five minutes.

But while ticker troubles are a major risk, there are other symptoms to keep an eye on as well.

“Other common health risks include dehydration, back injuries, pulled muscles, broken bones, and frostbite,” Tirado said. “But the good news is there are ways to safely shovel snow.”

SIMA recommends dressing in layers (preferably ones made of silk or cotton, as these materials don’t trap perspiration) and removing articles of clothing if you get too warm. It also advises clearing snow as it falls, shoveling after every few inches of accumulation, so as to avoid a much more difficult job later on. (Too late for this storm, but a good tip for the next one.) Finally, SIMA says, remember that shoveling is exercise, so you should prepare for it like you would a daily jog by doing some preliminary stretches.

And when you can, don’t lift that big pile—sometimes it makes more sense to push it to the side.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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