Most of the country experienced a winter storm this week. A low-pressure system trekked across the country dropping snow, freezing rain, and sleet all the way from the mountains of California to New England and everywhere in between.
Afterward, people were left to dig themselves out. And shoveling all that snow sends tens of thousands of people to the ER every year according to a 17-year study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.
When surface temperatures are near the freezing mark like they were during this storm, the snow has a high moisture content, making it much heavier. Snow becomes lighter and fluffier as the air gets colder. This is because colder air can’t hold as much moisture as warm air.
1) Heavy snow? How Heavy is it?
Most of the snow this past week was of the heavy, wet variety. A moisture-laden snowfall is going to weigh more than twice as much as a light, fluffy snow. A cubic foot or roughly a shovel full of the easy stuff may only weigh seven pounds while heavier snow can weigh upwards of 15 pounds.
2) That doesn’t seem like much!
Shoveling snow is quite the workout. For someone who weighs 150 pounds, shoveling snow for 30 minutes burns roughly the same amount of calories as running one or two miles. (SOURCE: healthstatus.com calorie counter) Most people wouldn’t head out the door to run a couple miles without any training, but most of us don’t think twice about shoveling snow.
3) Cold Weather Doesn’t Help
Cold air causes blood vessels to contract, restricting blood flow and making your heart work that much harder. That’s why at-risk groups like the elderly and those with a history of heart troubles need to pay closer attention. The extra workload can put already at risk groups over the top and into the ER.
Bottom line? Ask yourself if you’re in shape to shovel before attacking the heavy stuff with a shovel. Listen to your body. It’ll probably give you clues to whether or not you should be out there shoveling.
If you’re not in shape, consider changing your plans, finding someone in better shape to do it for you, or investing in a snow blower before trying to move ‘heart attack snow.’