As I sit here writing this column on the morning of Friday, Nov. 29 winter weather is on the way. And with it is snow. It is supposed to snow from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon. I’m not sure of how much snow we will actually get but I do know that shoveling snow is strenuous. In fact snow shoveling for 15 minutes is considered moderate physical activity according to the 1996 surgeon general’s report on physical activity and health. How convenient is that, at least for those who do not have snow blowers. Think about it, we could actually shovel ourselves to better health. In fact, according to metrohealth.com, snow shoveling can be more strenuous than exercising full blast on a treadmill or aerobics. Next time your wife wants to do aerobics just hand her a snow shovel and tell her she can actually get a more intense workout out there in the driveway. Just kidding, don’t do that unless you want to pull out the sleeper sofa in the living room where you’ll be sleeping for the evening. Seriously though, we should all aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity of some kind on most days of the week. If we don’t, research shows that there is an increase in the number of fatal heart attacks among snow shovelers after heavy snowfalls. This rise may be due to the sudden demand that shoveling places on an individual’s heart. For sure, snow shoveling causes a quick increase in heart rate and blood pressure. So if you are not exercising regularly, snow shoveling can be dangerous. The most at risk for a heart attack are anyone who has already had a heart attack, individuals with a history of heart disease, those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol and of course anyone who smokes. This does not mean that everyone who shovels snow will have a heart attack. It does mean to be careful out there and try not to overdo it. You could approach it like an athlete by stretching the muscles in your legs and arms. You could warm up by marching in place or walking briskly. Make sure to start out slow and work your way into it as to not place a sudden demand on your heart. You can always pace yourself and take breaks; the snow will be there when you come back.
Ken Harty is the publisher of The Fergus Falls Daily Journal.