Tips to Shovel Snow Safely

Snow shovelling is demanding on the body, so it's important not to over do it.

The energy used to shovel snow can be compared to the amount of energy needed to complete an active round of tennis or speed walking at approximately 8 kilometres per hour. Thirty minutes of snow shovelling can count as a day's worth of moderate physical activity.

Snow ClearingHere are some tips for shovelling snow safely:

  • Avoid caffeine or nicotine before starting. These stimulants may increase your heart rate and cause blood vessels to constrict, placing extra stress on your heart.
  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is just as big a concern in cold winter months as it is in summer.
  • Dress in several layers so you can remove a layer as needed.
  • Warm up your muscles before shovelling, by walking for a few minutes or marching in place. Stretch muscles in your arms and legs because warm muscles will work more efficiently and be less likely to be injured.
  • Pick the right shovel for you. A smaller blade will require you to lift less snow, putting less strain on your body.
  • Begin shovelling slowly, pace yourself and take breaks as needed.
  • Lift with your legs not your back. Bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible so that the lifting comes from your leg muscles, not your back. Never bend at the waist and step in the direction that you are throwing snow to prevent your lower back from twisting.
  • Create some distance between your hands. This will give you more leverage and make it easier to lift snow.
  • Pick up smaller loads of snow. It's best to shovel by sections and shovel approximately 5 centimetres (2 inches) off at a time.
  • Save your back and your energy by pushing the snow to the side instead of lifting and throwing it off to the side.
  • Listen to your body. Stop if you feel pain or observe heart attack warning signs, such as chest, shoulder, neck or arm pain; dizziness, fainting, sweating or nausea; or shortness of breath. If you think you're having a heart attack, seek medical help immediately.

Note: If you are inactive and have a history of heart trouble, talk to your doctor before you take on the task of shovelling snow.

When contacting the City, please allow us 72 hours to respond, or longer in the event of a severe snow storm.