Open Accessibility Menu

There’s Snow Outside — Should You Be Shoveling?

Published in Orthopedics, For the Health of It Author: Patrick Osborn,MD

Minnesota has always been synonymous with snow. This year we haven’t had the opportunity to experience as much snow as we’ve come to expect. While you may be eager to get outside and enjoy the new snowfall, there are some safety precautions to keep in mind before you head outdoors and tackle the snow on your sidewalk and driveway.

Shoveling can be a great exercise activity but it can also be hard on your body if it’s wet and heavy. It’s always important to listen to your body, use proper form and go at your own pace. Check out these tips to help prevent bodily injury and harm.

Ask yourself if you should be shoveling.

Heart attacks and injuries to the neck and back are possible with strenuous activity like shoveling. If you’re not in the proper shape for shoveling or you have a medical condition talk to your primary care provider and discuss if it’s a safe activity for you. You may want to consider using a snowblower, asking for help from a family member, friend, or neighbor or call a snow removal service.

Evaluate your surroundings.

Before you go outside, it’s a good idea to know what kind of conditions you’re heading into. It’s important to know if the snow is wet and heavy and if the terrain is particularly icy and slippery.

Wear the right gear.

Dress in layers that can be easily removed if you become overheated. Wear lightweight boots with good foot support to help you stabilize in slippery conditions. If your layers become wet from snow, consider taking a break to change into dry gear.

Use proper form.

Stand with your feet hip distance apart. It’s best to push the snow instead of lifting it. If lifting is necessary, use strength from your legs and always remember to bend your knees. Be careful not to twist or put stress on your back. This can cause injury. Don’t lift huge amounts of snow—small scoops, about half a shovel full, are the way to go.

Make sure to stay hydrated.

It seems like a no-brainer to drink extra water on particularly hot summer days. It isn’t always as easy to remember to drink water with activity on cold winter days, too.

Remember, it’s not a race.

It’s important to know your limits and take breaks when you need to.

If you do experience an emergency, call 911 immediately.