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Can you Dig it?

Shoveling snow is actually a very physically demanding workout, one that is made even worse due to the fact that it is usually done in very cold weather. Combine the extreme physical exertion with the added stress your body is under as it tries to cope with the cold, and you have a recipe for health problems.

Many people don't take into account their own pre-existing health conditions before going out to shovel snow. High blood pressure, heart problems, and bad backs are all reasons to excuse yourself from shoveling. But too often, people hurry outside thinking it will only take a few minutes to get the job done and they end up having a heart attack in the process.

Wear Proper Clothing

If you have decided you're up to the job (and no one else volunteers!), make sure you wear the right clothing.
Wear layers of warm clothing that will still allow you freedom of movement. Even though it is cold outside, you can get overheated easily, so slow down or stop entirely if you feel yourself sweating. By wearing layers, you can remove a piece of clothing if you begin to overheat. Wear warm socks and insulated, waterproof boots to protect your feet.
Wear gloves that are warm and waterproof, as you probably will get some snow on your hands.

Make sure you have the right type of shovel.

Don't use an "old-faithful" shovel that is too heavy, has a loose shovel head, or doesn't fit your hands well with your gloves on. If you don't have a good shovel, spend the money to buy a strong, lightweight fiberglass shovel that fits your hands well while wearing your gloves. It's enough work to lift the snow without having to lift a heavy shovel along with it.
Consider buying an ergonomic snow shovel with a bent handle configuration. These types of shovels cause less strain on your back.

Loosen up and stretch before you begin.

This may sound unnecessary, but remember, snow shoveling is actually heavy exercise. Many people wouldn't consider starting their workout without warming up. It's no different with shoveling. Swing your arms, stretch your legs, and do some torso twists. You may be glad you did!

Use The Right Technique

Once you are out in the snow, use the proper technique.
Start slowly, moving only small amounts of snow at first. Let your muscles warm up before attempting bigger loads.
Whenever possible, push the snow towards a pile, as opposed to lifting the snow and throwing it on a pile. This saves considerable wear and tear on your back.
When you have to shovel and lift the snow, throw it straight out from you after you have a scoop full. If you throw it to your side or over your shoulder, you again run the risk of straining back, shoulder, or neck muscles.

If you are out shoveling snow for any length of time, be sure to keep yourself hydrated.

As with all exercise, you need to keep your fluid levels up. Drink water, not caffeine. Your natural inclination may be to drink coffee to warm you up inside, but water is still the best way to replenish fluids depleted by exercise.

Yours in health, sand and sun,

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