Its that time of year, we have had 2 somewhat minor snowfalls to date this year and if the meteorologists are right, we will be getting 6-10 inches of snow tonight. If it is necessary to do some heavy shoveling, many will grab the shovel and get right to it without realizing the danger. As a Babylon personal trainer, I know that snow shoveling can be just as strenuous as a workout session if not more, especially for someone who has been sedentary. In fact, a Journal of the American Medical Association study found that the cardiovascular exertion of shoveling snow is the equivalent of “maximal” effort on a treadmill for sedentary men. An out of shape person increases his/her risk for a heart attack one hundred fold when they shovel snow.
When we exercise at our Babylon personal training facility, we warmup first, our heart and breathing rates gradually rise, our blood vessels gradually dilate to increase oxygen to working muscles. This warmup prepares our bodies for exertion. Snow shoveling is akin to heavy weightlifting in the cold; to do it without warming up is like gambling with your heart. The cold weather will cause the body to constrict blood flow to the skin to conserve heat. This will cause the blood pressure to increase and put stress on the heart. For a deconditioned person, especially an older person it is far more dangerous than many realize. For those of us who exercise regularly or have their own Babylon personal trainer, it can still be dangerous to perform strenuous activity in the cold without a proper warmup for the same reason, it will stress the heart. A conditioned person can perhaps handle that stress better than a sedentary person but why should they?
If you regularly participate in an exercise program turn snow shoveling into a workout, warmup properly, use proper lifting mechanics, throw in the ear buds and have at it. Shoveling snow can burn anywhere from 400-600 calories an hour. If you have neighbors who should perhaps not be shoveling snow than maybe get a tougher workout and do their walkways for them. You’ll get a great workout plus feel better for helping someone. Whenever we get a heavy snowfall I always do a 15-20 minute dynamic warmup before I start shoveling. I do my neighbors walk (he’s in his 70’s and is not very active so he should NEVER shovel snow) then I do my own. Below is the warmup I use every time before I start shoveling.
Snow Shoveling Warmup
Foam Roll – lumbar, glute, hamstring, quad (if you don’t own a foam roller, no worries its not essential)
20 Alternating Bird Dogs
20 Hip Swings (each side)
20 Alternating RDL
20 Bodyweight Squats
30 jumping jacks
2 times through (foam roll only once if applicable)
Bill Riccio, ISSA-CFT, Kettlebell Athletics, NASM is a personal trainer in Babylon and Farmingdale, NY.