The Joint Ventures' Blog

How To Keep Yourself Safe While Shoveling This Winter

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

It’s that time of year again! It is now officially winter and, while we have had a few small snow storms, a bigger one is likely coming our way sooner rather than later. If recent years are any indication, we likely have more than a few storms that will bring us significant amounts of snow. No one knows just how much snow we can expect, but it is probably safe to say there will be a need for some snow shoveling soon.

As we all know, snow can pile up and be quite heavy. Shoveling snow involved repeatedly bending over, lifting, carrying, and tossing, which puts some unaccustomed strain on your body, especially your back. However, this does not necessarily need to be the case. With a few simple tips outlined below, you can significantly reduce the amount of stress on your back and the potential for possible injury.

Warm up – It can be helpful to consider performing 5-10 minutes of light exercise indoors before heading outside. This will help prepare your body by warming up your muscles and priming your cardiovascular system for the upcoming physical demands of shoveling. This warm up can include just about anything, but can include some stretching of upper and lower body, walking up and down the stairs a few times, marching in place, and other exercises such as hip hinges, squats, and lunges to name a few. Regardless of your exercise choice, the most important point is to not go out “cold” into the cold.

Dress properly – Wear breathable layers, a hat, and gloves. Also, wearing proper footwear can give you traction on slippery, uneven terrain, which is important to establish a solid base of support with the ground.

Use proper body mechanics – Remembering a few things about proper body mechanics can go a long way towards minimizing injury risk.

-It is easier to push versus lifting snow.

-If you have to lift the snow, there is less strain in lifting smaller amounts of snow instead of lifting full shovel loads.

-Keep one hand on the top handle of the shovel and the other hand closer to the part of the shovel that holds the snow to improve your leverage. Holding the load of the shovel closer to your body will also improve your leverage.

-Engage and brace your abdominal muscles gently, as if you were bracing for a punch to the stomach or trying to put on a belt, to improve the stability of your spine

-Keep your back straight and avoid bending at your waist. Instead bend at your hips and knees to utilize the stronger and powerful muscles of your legs to bend and to lift the snow.

-Try to carry the snow rather to where you are putting it rather than throwing it there. If you need to throw it or toss it, try to minimize repetitive twisting motions. These twisting motions, especially with your back in a flexed position, can put a lot of strain on your back. 

Keep pace with the snow – It is no secret that shoveling less snow is easier than shoveling more snow. It is less physically demanding to shovel a few inches of snow more frequently than a foot or more of snow all at once. If you know it is going to be a big snow storm, it is a good idea to shovel more frequently so that each round of shoveling is easier to manage than doing it all at once. This is especially helpful if it is a wetter and heavier snow.

Take frequent rest breaks - Snow shoveling is a physical activity that not only stresses your musculoskeletal system but also your cardiovascular system. Taking breaks as needed will help minimize fatigue which can happen from prolonged shoveling due to the repetitive movements it requires. When you are fatigued, injuries are more likely to occur. If you have any pain, shortness of breath that does not improve with rest, or chest pain, stop immediately and seek medical care.

Stay hydrated - Even though it’s cold out, you most likely will be sweating from all the physical demands of shoveling; therefore, it is important to be sure to periodically drink fluids.

It’s winter in New England and whether you love or hate the snow, we all have to deal with it in some capacity. These basic tips can help make it a more tolerable experience by avoiding injury.

If you have any questions or would like to know more, please feel free to contact Dave Carleton at or stop by our Downtown Office!

Leave A Comment

Boston Web Designer