Lawn & Garden

Ergonomic Snow Shoveling Tips from the Experts

As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, Old Man Winter gears up to blow squalling snow all over our decks and driveways.

In our house, that means we dust off the snow shovels and move them to the hooks closest to the garage door. It just so happens that I am married to a certified ergonomics specialist, so I have been well trained in “proper snow shoveling techniques.”

Before setting out to clear a path to the mailbox, take some guidance from our household safety officer, and save yourself from strain and injury.

Before You Start:
1. Choose the right shovel. A shovel with an ergonomically curved and/or adjustable handle will help keep you from injuring yourself.
2. Warm up. Take about 10 minutes to get your blood flowing with some light cardiovascular exercise like marching in place, and stretch your muscles before you begin shoveling snow.
3. Plan to push snow-as opposed to lifting it, if possible.

If You Must Lift Snow, Use Proper Ergonomic Lifting Techniques:
- Always face the snow you intend to remove, keeping your hips and shoulders square.
- Squat by bending your knees to get lower, and use your leg muscles, rather than your back, to lift. If your legs are tired, you're doing it right.
- Remove small amounts frequently, instead of large amounts all at once.
- Keep one hand as close to the blade as comfortably possible, while placing the other hand on the handle.
- Walk to a new location to deposit the snow (rather than reaching or tossing it).
- If you must throw the snow, do not twist to do so. Rather, step in the direction that you want the snow to go to, keeping your feet facing where you are throwing.

Keep in Mind:
When shoveling snow, make sure to take frequent breaks (about every 15 minutes) to keep from getting overworked. Stretch your arms, shoulders, and back, and have a drink of water. As with any rigorous exercise, it's important to stay hydrated. And don't let the snow pile up before you start removing it. It's far easier to move small amounts of snow frequently than it is to move a large amount all at once. So shovel early and often. And then head inside for a cup of hot chocolate. Take that, Old Man Winter.

For more on snow removal, consider:

Quick Tip: Snow Blower Safety
How To: Maintain a Snow Blower for Peak Performance
Shop for a Snow Blower Before First Flakes Fall