The scoop on shoveling snow and preventing hypothermia

The Extension office will be closed for the New Year holiday Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

The winter season is starting out with a bang; great snows and the prediction of many more before winter starts to wane. The good part of this is the excellent skiing, beauty of the mountains and great winter fun. The downside, of course, is the shoveling and snow removal.

If you are doing your own shoveling, you can get quite a bit of exercise as long as you do it properly. Only 15 minutes of snow shoveling counts as moderate physical activity, according to the 1996 Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health. That is half the daily recommendation for physical activity.

Unfortunately, the number of fatal heart attacks among snow shovelers increases after a heavy snowfall. Snow shoveling increases heart rate and blood pressure. In fact, one study showed that after only a couple of minutes of shoveling, sedentary men’s heart rates rose to levels higher than those normally recommended during aerobic exercise. Some people should think twice before venturing outside with a shovel. People most at risk of heart attacks are those who already have had a heart attack, those with a history of heart disease, those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels and those who smoke.

If you’ve been sedentary, it’s a good idea to consult a health care provider before taking off to shovel that driveway. For those in the “at risk” group, it might be time to pass the shovel to someone else or hire a service.

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This story was posted on December 31, 2015.