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By the time you are reading this, chances are Carroll County will be in the midst of its largest snowstorm of the winter, with potential for 10 to 15 inches

By the time you are reading this, chances are Carroll County will be in the midst of its largest snowstorm of the winter, with potential for 10 to 15 inches before snowfall stops. Chances are, you're going to have to shovel it sooner than later.

People tend to think of shoveling snow as a regular household chore, not a cardiovascular workout. But the fact of the matter is shoveling can be the equivalent of going to the gym and lifting weights for several hours. Because of that, and since most of us won't be able to avoid shoveling completely, it's important to consider your health before you get outside.

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Before you start shoveling, consider doing about five to 10 minutes of stretches, focusing on your lower back and hamstrings. Muscles, tendons and ligaments are like rubber bands, and if you warm them up by stretching, they'll stay to loose while shoveling, even in the cold. Muscles that aren't properly warmed up are more susceptible to strains and tears in the frigid temperatures. Once you're finished shoveling, stretch again inside for another five to 10 minutes.

Pay attention to your technique once you get outside and begin shoveling. Push the snow to the side when you can, rather than lifting it. If you must lift the snow, contract your abdominal muscles and keep your back straight, then lift by lowering your hips and using your legs rather than your back. Instead of throwing the snow, walk it to its new location, and try to avoid twisting your back and instead pivot your entire body.

That's not to say you won't be sore later — again, if you aren't used to working out, shoveling isn't much different than a weight-lifting session, so expect some discomfort — but following these tips should help you avoid significant injury.

It's also important to be mindful of your cardiovascular health when shoveling. The effort and exertion that comes with shoveling snow — or even pushing a heavy snow blower through wet, dense snow like what is expected today — can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. Combined with cold temperatures that can tighten the heart's arteries, medical experts say, even if you have no obvious symptoms of heart disease, and it creates conditions ideal for a heart attack.

Protecting your body from the cold is good advice whenever your are outside, but is particularly smart when shoveling. Using a scarf over your head and mouth so you inhale less cold air can make a big difference, according to a cardiologist from the Carroll Health Group.

There will certainly be a temptation to shovel before the snow gets too deep, and move a little bit at a time, but if strong cold wind gusts of up to 30 mph accompany the snow fall as forecast, we suggest waiting it out. In addition to the health risks, snowdrifts may render your work moot.

Don't rush to remove the snow. Take your time shoveling, move a little less at a time to avoid injury and remember there is no shame in taking a break, going inside and enjoying a hot beverage while you warm up. Your body will thank you later.



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