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Snow Shoveling Safety – What Seniors Need to Know

Dec 12, 2017 | Health and Wellness

We just enjoyed our first snow here in the Capital Region. While we’re so excited to be in a winter wonderland, this reminded us that a lot of seniors out there are still performing maintenance on their homes. Shoveling snow can be a really big job. It’s really important to keep yourself safe and healthy while taking on this task.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) rounded up these great tips for seniors who find themselves responsible for snow removal. They talked with Brian Frechette, director of Elliot Rehabilitation Services in Manchester, N.H., to get all the best information about how your health relates to this seemingly every-day task:


  1. Do you suffer from cardiac issues? Are you not feeling well? Are you recovering from an injury? Have you been strengthening your core during workouts? Get the all clear from your doctor before clearing the driveway with a shovel or a blower.
  2. If you’re not up for the exertion, don’t risk your health. There’s no reason you can’t ask a neighbor, service or family member to help.
  3. Dress appropriately in layers for warmth. Do not wear anything tight, stiff or restrictive.
  4. Use the right tool for the job. A shovel that’s too short, too heavy or too unwieldy puts more strain on your body.
  5. Stretch before and after you shovel — just as you should stretch before cardio or strength exercise to help prevent injury. 

  6. Bend your knees and lift the weight of the snow with your legs so you don’t throw your back out of whack. Keep your abdomen engaged.
  7. When possible, keep the shovel close to your body. Increased strain to the low back during lifting occurs when you have the weight far from your body.
  8. Push your shovel from the edge of the handle, shifting your body weight from back leg to front leg instead of bending at the waist. Keep those knees bent! 
  9. Don’t try to save time by lifting too much. Insert the shovel vertically into the snow, step on the blade to loosen a small amount and lift that.
  10. Walk the snow over toward the pile you’re accumulating, instead of twisting and turning. If you must turn, try to pivot with your legs instead of twisting with your lower back.
  11. Take rest and stretch breaks. If you become overly sweaty, dizzy or short of breath, get out of the cold and go chill for a while. If you continue to feel ill — or suspect a serious medical problem — seek emergency help right away. 

  12. Drink plenty of water.

Post these tips on your fridge, garage door or shed door for the winter. Anywhere that will help you remember what to do before you grab your shovel!

Staying active and focusing on preventative wellness is a big part of staying safe during snow removal. You can see our activities list here for some great ideas on how to get moving.

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