As the first snow blankets the ground this winter, it may be daunting to think of lugging on boots, gloves and a coat and clearing your driveway of that white, fluffy nuisance. This season, park the snow blower, grab a good shovel and envision that mundane chore as an invigorating, yet surprisingly effective, workout.
Like speed walking or an active game of tennis, shoveling is a moderate to vigorous aerobic activity. Its benefits include increased heart rate and oxygen uptake, elevated blood pressure, effective calorie burning, a clean driveway and no commute to the gym.
Start with a 5–10 minute warm-up of marching in place or jumping jacks to loosen your muscles. You wouldn’t get on the rowing machine without a warm-up, and snow shoveling uses many of the
same muscles, so be sure to get them ready. Treat yourself to a tall glass of water before beginning; hydration is just as important out in the cold as it is in the summer heat.
Proper Technique and Equipment
When possible, push the snow instead of lifting. This reduces back strain and minimizes the chance of injury. If pushing the snow isn’t an option, it’s important to remember proper technique. Bend your legs, engage your abdominal muscles and lift from your legs. Avoid overloading the shovel to minimize the effort needed to lift.
It’s also important to choose the proper shovel. Consider shovel height and handle design when purchasing this tool. For tips on finding the right shovel, visit www.theshovelguy.com.
If you’re looking for a little more intensity from your shoveling adventure, try incorporating walking lunges while pushing snow or pulsing squats while lifting it. As with any exercise, be sure to take frequent breaks and head inside if you feel any chest discomfort or tightness, shortness of breath or dizziness. If you are prone to heart trouble, consult your physician before shoveling.
Cool down before cocoa
Once the driveway is clear, you may be tempted to go inside and curl up with a nice cup of hot cocoa. But WAIT! Proper stretching after a moderately intense workout is a must; it lengthens muscle fibers
and allows blood to flow through the body, cleaning the fibers and preventing toxin buildup. It also increases flexibility over time. So, kick off your boots and spend 5–10 minutes rewarding yourself with a good stretch after your intense and productive workout!
Jessica Peterson is a group fitness instructor in Rochester who is passionate about living a healthy and active lifestyle and running a Facebook page called Health and Fitness Chick.