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Shovel snow safely

Shovel snow safely
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Snow shoveling may be dangerous for some hearts

The scoop on snow shoveling

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, November / December 2009

If you have lived through a Winnipeg winter, chances are that you are well acquainted with your snow shovel.

Winnipeg receives an average of 115 centimetres of snow each winter, so we have plenty of opportunity to exercise our shovelling muscles.

On the plus side, this is an excellent way to stay active during the winter. Health experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day, and shovelling definitely counts toward that total.

However, research shows that, after heavy snowfalls, there is an increase in the number of heart attacks among snow shovellers. If you take appropriate precautions and keep safety in mind, shovelling snow can be an invigorating activity and help keep you physically fit.

Here are some tips on how to shovel snow safely:

  • If you are not very active, don't do heavy work regularly, or have a history of heart trouble, speak with your doctor before shovelling snow.
  • Begin shovelling slowly to avoid placing a sudden demand on your heart. Also, pace yourself and take regular rest breaks, every five to 10 minutes.
  • Use a shovel that is suited to your needs and capabilities. A smaller shovel will lift less snow and put less strain on your body.
  • If you have concerns about your ability to shovel snow, consider delegating the task to a friend, neighbour or family member.
  • If you are shovelling, be alert to the signals of heart attack, which can include pain, shortness of breath, nausea, and sweating (cool, clammy skin).
  • If you are experiencing the warning signals of a heart attack, stop all activity and call 911 immediately, or have someone call for you.

Source: Winnipeg Health Region

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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