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Use caution when shoveling snow

Published 4:41pm Saturday, December 22, 2012

hoveling snow can be good exercise when performed correctly. Shoveling snow can also be harmful when people try to take on more than they can handle.

Here are some tips from physicians at Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin to keep in mind before going outside to shovel:

If you are inactive and have a history of heart trouble, talk to your doctor before you shovel. Stop if you feel tightness in your chest. Heart attacks increase significantly in the winter months, particularly while people are shoveling snow.

Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is just as important in cold winter months as it is in the summer.

Dress warmly. Dress in several layers so you can remove a layer as needed.

Do not shovel while eating or smoking. Avoid caffeine or nicotine before you begin shoveling. This may place extra stress on the heart.

Warm up your muscles in your arms and legs. Walk for a few minutes and stretch your arms and legs before shoveling. Warm muscles are less likely to be injured and work more efficiently. Also keep a cell phone handy just in case of emergency.

Take it slow. Pace yourself and take breaks.

Don’t pick up too much snow at once. Use a small shovel, or fill it only one-fourth to one-half if you use a large shovel. If necessary, just push the snow as you shovel. It is easier on your back. Keep the load of snow as close to you as possible.

Protect your back. Bend from the knees, not your back. Lift with your legs bent, stand with your feet about hip width for balance and keep the shovel close to your body. Try not to twist. If you need to move the snow to one side move your feet to face the direction the snow will be going.

Clear snow as soon as it stops falling. Freshly fallen snow is lighter than snow that has melted slightly.

Most importantly — listen to your body. Stop if you feel very tired.

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