Safe snow shovelling requires proper preparation, the right tools, good technique and knowledge. Talk to your doctor about this activity and your health status before winter season arrives.

Think twice if you

  • have had a heart attack or have other forms of heart disease
  • have high blood pressure or high cholesterol level
  • are a smoker
  • lead a sedentary lifestyle


  • Consider hiring a student or using a volunteer service if you are a senior
  • Shovel at least 1–2 hours after eating, and avoid caffeine and nicotine
  • Warm up first (walk or march in place for several minutes before beginning)
  • Start slow and continue at a slow pace (Suggestion: shovel for 5–7 minutes and rest 2–3 minutes)
  • Drink lots of water to prevent dehydration
  • Shovel early and often
  • New snow is lighter than heavily packed/partially melted snow
  • Take frequent breaks


  • Shovel
    • Sturdy yet lightweight is best (a small plastic blade is better than a large metal blade)
    • An ergonomically correct model (curved handle) will help prevent injury and fatigue
    • Spray the blade with a silicone-based lubricant (snow does not stick and slides off)
  • Clothing
    • Wear multiple layers and cover as much skin as possible
    • Wear a hat and scarf (make sure neither block your vision)
    • Wear mittens (tend to be warmer than gloves)
    • Wear boots with non-skid/no-slip rubber soles


  • Push the snow rather than lifting
  • Protect your back by lifting properly and safely: Stand with feet at hip width for balance
  • Hold the shovel close to your body
  • Space hands apart to increase leverage
  • Bend from your knees, not your back
  • Tighten your stomach muscles while lifting
  • Avoid twisting while lifting
  • Walk to dump snow rather than throwing it
  • When snow is deep, shovel small amounts (1–2 inches at a time) at a time
  • If the ground is icy or slippery, spread salt, sand or cat litter to create better foot traction


  • Shovelling snow is strenuous activity that is very stressful on the heart
  • Exhaustion makes you more susceptible to frostbite, injury and hypothermia
  • Stop shovelling and call 9‑1‑1 if you have
    • discomfort or heaviness in the chest, arms or neck
    • unusual or prolonged shortness of breath
    • a dizzy or faint feeling
    • excessive sweating or nausea and vomiting