If you're familiar with white Christmases, you're familiar with their strenuous downside: shoveling snow. It's the most dreaded winter chore. Those exciting first snowflakes turn into huffing and puffing, lifting heavy piles. But a change of perspective can turn this holiday horror into a positive. Did you know there are benefits to snow shoveling?
How do you get ready to shovel snow?
Before you slide on that winter coat, let's do some prep work. Your shoveling session will be more efficient when you plan.
Erik Berger, MD of Internal/Sports Medicine at SCL Health Medical Group - Lafayette, encouraged season anticipation. "Maybe in the summer and fall, you can start a walking program and basic core workouts," he said. "If you're in shape year-round, you'll handle snow shoveling with fewer problems."
Once you've strengthened your body, it's time to prepare for the day. Snow shoveling is moderate exercise, so prepare like you would for other winter workouts. Bundling up and staying hydrated is key to avoiding health risks.
What are the benefits of snow shoveling?
Other than dodging driveway damage, there are benefits to snow shoveling. According to the CDC, an hour of shoveling snow can burn around 532 calories. That's the same as an hour of vigorous weightlifting!
If you've ever shoveled, you know it's a full-body workout. You're pushing with your legs, lifting your upper body, and strengthening your back and core. Exercising like this manages weight, reduces the risk of disease, and even improves brain health.
Dr. Berger suggested shoveling every 2-3 inches of snowfall instead of waiting for it to accumulate. "You'll get a little more exercise, you'll move quicker, and it will be less strain each time," he said.
What are the risks of snow shoveling?
All exercise comes with risks. Enough preparation for the snow shoveling season helps avoid things like lower back pain, cardiovascular strain, and hypothermia.
"If you're noticing a nuance in chest pain or shortness of breath, don't ignore it and seek medical help," said Dr. Berger. "If it's musculoskeletal and you're feeling a strain, don't push through it and take an over-the-counter pain killer."
Overall, snow shoveling is a great way to stay moving (and burn off those holiday pounds!). The weather outside is far from frightful with these health benefits.
"Enjoy the snow! Make it fun and make it safe," encouraged Dr. Berger. "You don't need an expensive gym membership to stay active."