The dos and don’ts of shovelling snow
Here we go again, fellow Canadians: it’s time to embrace the return of the white stuff, the fluffy stuff, the slushy stuff, the icy stuff and, oh, that dreaded plow wall. We kind of have to embrace shovelling snow because, as Canadians, we can’t avoid it. Even the snowbirds may not be able to escape it this year, if travel restrictions remain in effect.
Since we can’t stop it from coming, let’s take a look at some dos and don’ts for shovelling snow, because while it can be a good workout, there’s also some potential for danger.
DO dress appropriately.
As with any outdoor winter activity, layering can be a good idea. Some winter days can be a little milder, even if it snows, so in that case you’ll want to have the option to remove a layer or two. After all, the act of shovelling alone will warm you up. Wear slip-resistant boots, too.
DON’T lift with your back.
Good form is very important in order to avoid injuries.
DO lift with your legs.
Good form includes lifting with your legs, keeping your feet hip-width apart, engaging your core and keeping your body straight – no twisting.1
DON’T keep your hands close together.
In order to get the best leverage, space your hands apart on the shovel’s handle.
DO push rather than lift.
Lifting, especially when the snow is wet and heavy, can be hard on your back.
DON’T scoop too much at once.
Keep the weight at a manageable level and keep it close to your body so you don’t get overtired or strain a muscle. If there’s been a particularly big snowfall, just take it in layers of a few centimetres at a time.
DO try to shovel when it’s fluffy and light.
It’ll be easier in this state than if you wait and it becomes wetter and heavier.
DON’T rush it.
Take it at as comfortable a pace as possible. It might even help to have a good stretch before and after.
DO use the right shovel.
You don’t want it to be too heavy or too long for your body type.2 Also, consider the different types of shovel: a wide blade for pushing, a narrower blade for quick scooping, a spring-assisted or curved handle for better ergonomics, and the list goes on.3 You might even want to have a couple of different types on hand for different situations.
DON’T shovel on a full stomach.
Remember, snow shovelling isn’t just a chore, it’s exercise; so take the same precautions you would with any workout.
DO consider your (and others’) safety if you’re using a snowblower.
Turn it off if it jams, keep your hands away from the blades, don’t add fuel when it’s running and don’t leave it unattended.4
Here’s hoping you have a happy and safe snow-shovelling season with these dos and don’ts in mind.
1 Canadian Chiropractic Association, “Avoid back pain when shovelling snow!” November 22, 2018.
2 OrthoInfo, “Prevent Snow Shoveling and Snowblowing Injuries,” November 2019.
3 Field & Stream, “Three Things to Think About When Picking a Snow Shovel,” September 16, 2019.
4 National Safety Council, “Why do People Die Shoveling Snow?”