Older Parents and Grandparents Should Not Shovel Snow
Last year I purchased a really interesting exercise book that also contained First Aid information as well. The book is called The No Sweat Exercise Plan by Dr. Harvey Simon. While I found a lot of the information in the book very interesting, one the sections that caught my attention was on the dangers of snow shoveling for people older than 45 years old.
Instead of describing the section in my own words it would be better to provide an excerpt from the book.
Although snow shoveling may sound like a good idea, its anything but. In fact, it’s the one form of exercise I discourage particularly for people at risk. Here’s why:
- It involves cold exposure a cardia stress that narrows arteries and raises blood pressure
- The work in shoveling snow comes in episodic, intense bursts, and it’s isometric exercise which raises blood pressure and mosst taxes the heart
- People who shovel are often out of shape.
- Most people don’t warm up before they shovel or cool down afterward.
Now here is the best point Dr. Simon mentions:
- It brings out the machismo of men. When women shovel they generally clear the narrowest path that will permit safe passage. Men may start with the same goal, but they usually keep going, ignoring cold feet, aching back and even chest pain until every last flake is out of the way. Testosterone has no place on snow covered driveways.
Last year we lost a member of our community who went into cardiac arrest while shoveling snow. This year I heard on the news about a 41 year old father who died while shoveling snow. According to Dr. Simon, approximately 1200 people die of cardiac arrests during or after snow storms every year in the US.
What I cannot understand is why people insist of using lawnmowers to cut the grass in the summer but when it comes to snow they use shovels. It should be the reverse. People should use push reel mowers in the summer to cut their grass and snow blowers in the winter. Push reel mowers are fully manual. The faster you push the mower the faster it cuts the grass. The workout is gradual and satisfying. There are actually many benefits to using a push reel mower of which I will discuss in a later post.
Getting back to snow shoveling, if you are over forty five and you absolutely need to shovel then you should make sure to do the following:
- Warm up beforehand and cool down afterward
- Dress warmly
- Stay well hydrated
- Pace yourself and take frequent breaks
- Lift three loads than one heavy shovelful, pushing snow aside is better
- Avoid heavy, wet, icy snow
- Set reasonable goals and stick with them
- Bend from your knees not from the waist
- Above all, listen to your body
Put down your shovel and head home if you experience chest pain, palpitations, undue shortness of breath, fatigue, lightheadedness, or nausea – all potential signs of cardiac distress. 
 Simon, Harvey M.D. The No Sweat Exercise Plan: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, and Live Longer; McGraw-Hill Books (2006) page 168
 Ibid, page 169
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