Shoveling Snow is High-Intensity Exercise
Many people look at a treadmill and are willing to walk on it, but very few want to run on it because of the high intensity aspect of the workout. However, these same people will not think twice about strapping on a pair of boots, putting on a hat and picking up a shovel to start clearing their driveways of snow. A person who weighs 200 pounds can burn over 400 calories when shoveling heavy snow for 30 minutes. Shoveling snow, especially heavy snow, is quite demanding on the cardiovascular system and for some people, it is more demanding than running on a treadmill at maximum speed.
In 1995, a very interesting study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which examined the demands of shoveling heavy snow on the cardiovascular system. Ten healthy men of an average age of 32 completed 10 minutes of manual self-paced shoveling and 10 minutes of removing snow with a snow blower. Heart rate and blood pressure responses were than compared to values that these same men recorded when performing a maximal arm cycling task and a maximal treadmill test. At the 10- minute mark of shoveling snow manually, the average heart rate of the participants was at approximately 97% of their maximal heart rate. Blood pressure during shoveling snow manually was significantly greater than during maximal arm cycling and using a snow blower and slightly greater than maximal treadmill testing.
Beyond a doubt, shoveling snow manually poses a tremendous stress on the cardiovascular and muscular systems, but measures can be taken to prepare the body for this strenuous activity.
Treat Shoveling as Exercise
Psychologically, it is difficult to prepare ourselves for movement unless we mentally classify an activity as exercise. For instance, it is rare to witness someone stretching their legs or lower back or taking a brisk walk throughout the grocery store isle before carrying four heavy bags of groceries to the car. It is also rare to see anyone warming up before gardening, moving boxes or furniture around the house and/or shoveling snow.
A proper warm-up increases body temperature and blood flow to the working muscles which make the muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints better able to deal with the sudden demand of loading snow onto a shovel. Also, the process of warming up by walking on the spot, cycling or slowly shoveling lighter loads of snow for five to 10 minutes helps increase heart rate and the heartís ability to react and pump blood as the level of activity increases.