The Healthy Way to Shovel Snow

Winter tends to creep up on us.  A few days notice and bam! we're covered in snow! Thing is, many of us aren't physically prepared for the task. Relax, you don't have to be Hercules to shovel out after a monster storm, you just need to use some good ol' common sense. Below are four healthy tips for shoveling sanely after a winter storm.

  1. Always shovel on an empty stomach - It goes without saying that eating, then shoveling or doing any form of exercise is counterproductive. That's because digestion takes up a lot of your body's energy. After we've eaten, most of our body's energy sources go to the stomach, leaving less energy for the limbs. In the case of shoveling or any cardio exercise, you're getting less blood flow to the heart. This is why it's important not to eat beforehand -- so that your limbs and heart muscles have sufficient blood flow for the task at hand. If you must have something to eat before you shovel, a fresh vegetable juice will nourish you enough to get the job done since it's easily and quickly digested.
  2. Use your knees during lifting, not your back - Not all of us are in olympian shape to get out there and shovel snow. Snow can be quite heavy to lift. There's a way to handle the snow mounds systematically -- a little bit at a time. Have patience! Remember, "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
  3. Pace yourself. Stop when you're tired. Shoveling is both a cardio and weight lifting exercise, or a workout, depending on how you look at it. If you are not in the shape to be doing cardio and weight lifting exercises, then you shouldn't be shoveling. The healthy way to look at shoveling is to know your limits: know what you can and cannot do and accept this! That being said, ask for help. Enlist a neighbor to help out. Invest in a snowblower or pay to have someone to do it for you. Trust me, it's worth the expense. 
  4. Eat once you are rested and keep the meal light. After shoveling we tend to want to wolf down food because hey, shoveling makes us hungry! That being said, it's important to give yourself a brief period of rest beforehand. Shoveling is stress on the body, the heart and the limbs... like any workout, you'll need a brief period to cool down.  Once your body has calmed, it will be better able to ramp up again to handle digestion. Keep meals light and nutritious for the best recovery. A green smoothie or a salad will give you all the replacement vitamins, minerals and water you'll need to reenergize.