The Snow-Shoveling Workout

by Dawn Boulay

Years ago, when I was ready to move back to Massachusetts from San Francisco, many people asked me why would I do such a thing. What about those New England winters and how could I stand to shovel all that snow?

Fact is I LIKE SHOVELING SNOW! Snow shoveling is a necessary evil, so we might as well make the best of it. Rather than a chore, I see it as good exercise in the outdoors with lots of fresh air. The key is not to overdo it.

Snow shoveling is a challenge, even for those who are reasonably fit. That said, snow shoveling properly is a great cardio work-out and muscle conditioning exercise, though it’s important to remember a few key things:

Stretch! Spend a few minutes warming-up stretching before shoveling, just as you would any exercise, to prevent injury.

Pace yourself and set a steady pace. You don’t have to do it all at once. When a lot of snow inches are predicted, shovel in stages - 15 to 45 minute increments, then rest and do some more. For example, shovel some of the snow in the evening, then shovel the rest the next morning, lessening the obstacle. Keep a steady pace: Just as one would pace themselves running a marathon, or doing an hour long aerobics class, it’s better to maintain a slower but STEADY pace. You’ll last longer and it will feel less like work and more like exercise, than stop and go, stop and go activity.

Use your legs, not your back. Like many people, I suffer from back and disk injuries, however I see snow shoveling as a great way to work your lower body, core, back and arms – if done correctly. You can get your minimum daily requirement of squats in by using your lower body to lift the snow, rather than bending over and risk hurting your back. Pick up smaller increments of snow in each shovel full to protect your back, and switch arm position now and then to prevent wrist and shoulder injury.

Using your shovel to push the snow instead of just lifting it. This is a great workout and gives the back and shoulders a good workout and a break at the same time, working different parts of those muscle groups.

SUMMARY:

* Stretch to warm up the muscles and prevent injury.

* Shoveling snow can burn 300-500 calories an hour, and you can break it up into smaller increments to reap the cardio rewards, while keeping your body safe from injury.

* As with any exercise, watch your form and shoveling snow can be a good workout for your lower body, your back, shoulder and arms.

* A post-shovel stretch and a hot shower is a great way to relax and soothe those muscles. If you are shoveling and running off to work, bring a heating pad with you for post-shovel recovery.

When you look at how you can turn snow-shoveling into a good exercise routine, it’s really not so bad after all - now is it?

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