While many people recognize that shovelling snow is hard work, physiotherapists caution that shovelling can place severe stress on your heart, and cause stress and strain on your body. Research has identified snow shovelling as a high-risk activity for heart problems. Every year, shovellers also sustain injuries such as pulled and strained muscles from repetitive twisting and improper lifting. However, Canadians can still enjoy cardiovascular benefits from snow shovelling, if they prepare themselves and listen to their bodies.
Snow shovelling has a similar intensity to jogging, racquet sports, and other strenuous sporting activities. Individuals will be better prepared for shovelling if they avoid being sedentary by regularly participating in activities like walking.
Important tips for shovellers include warming up before shovelling, taking frequent breaks, and separating the job into smaller stages to prevent overexertion. Shovellers should take notice of any symptoms of back pain or repetitive strain, and should be aware of any warning signs of cardiac distress including shortness of breath, chest and/or upper body pain or discomfort, palpitations, and other symptoms such as anxiety, sudden extreme fatigue, nausea, dizziness or lightheadedness.
Shovelling can be made even more difficult by the weather. Cold air makes it harder to work and breathe, which adds extra strain on the body. Cold, tight muscles are more likely to strain than warm, relaxed muscles. Take time to stretch and prepare your body for activity with a simple warm-up before shovelling, and wear warm clothing.
Physiotherapy Can Help
Physiotherapists offer the following tips to you help get a handle on safe shovelling:
Choose a shovel that’s right for you
Use proper techniques
Take care of your body
If you are experiencing pain, consult a physiotherapist. Physiotherapists are primary health care professionals who help people of all ages and lifestyles gain and maintain their physical mobility. With their applied knowledge and understanding of the human body in action, physiotherapists can work with you to increase your mobility, relieve pain, build strength, improve balance and increase cardiovascular function. Physiotherapists will also help you prevent the onset of pain or injury, allowing you to maintain your desired level of active living.
Find a Physiotherapist
The Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) represents physiotherapists, physiotherapist assistants and physiotherapist students across Canada. CPA members are rehabilitation professionals dedicated to the health, mobility and fitness of Canadians.
Physiotherapists are primary health care professionals who combine their in-depth knowledge of the body and how it works with specialized hands-on clinical skills to assess, diagnose and treat symptoms of illness, injury or disability.
More than 20,000 registered physiotherapists work in Canada, in private clinics, general and rehabilitation hospitals, community health centres, residential care and assisted-living facilities, home visit agencies, workplaces, and schools.
To find a physiotherapist near you who can help with your condition, please visit:
Prince Edward Island
The CPA presents its educational references as a public service and for informational purposes only.
The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the opinions of the CPA membership.