When is the Best Time for Shoveling Snow?
You don’t have to live in Syracuse, one of the snowiest cities in the country, to have ended up shoveling at least once per season. Many people may think it’s just an unpleasant—but necessary—chore. However, it’s hard work! A 150-pound man will burn 400 calories an hour doing it. By comparison, cross-country skiing racks up 500 calories.
It’s also no secret that shoveling snow proves fatal for some individuals. There is an average of 11,550 injuries and 100 deaths each year from this activity. Heart attacks were the most frequent cause of mortality. That may make you wonder if there’s a better time or way to do it that is less risky.
Things beyond your control, such as getting the kids to school or you to work, may dictate when you start shoveling. The other thing to remember is that some municipalities require you to remove snow for public right-of-way or deliveries. It’s also a matter of safety for others that may use the sidewalks in your neighborhood and your risk of liability if someone falls.
The Weight of the Snow
We recommend keeping the weight of the snow on the front burner when deciding when to shovel snow. Many people put off this task until after it stops snowing. There are several problems with this plan. First, you may have a hard time finding the right path for your walkway when it’s covered completely. Second, wet snow is heavy. Waiting will make the job harder and riskier. It will also take longer.
A better strategy is to take advantage of any breaks in the action. You can at least clear off the porch so that you can open your door if a major snowstorm is headed your way. Besides, a strong wind combined with light powdery snow may do the job for you!
The weather is another valid concern when it comes to timing. As we mentioned above, a significant storm will mean multiple shoveling sessions unless you have a snowblower. That’s in the interest of safety. Unless you’re pretty fit, it’s not a wise plan to leave it to the end of the storm, especially if you have a large area to cover.
Time of Day
Another effective strategy is to take advantage of the sunlight and let it help with the melting. Waiting until late morning or early afternoon will give you an edge. Also, take into account your home’s position and exposure to pick the best time for this plan.
The Snowman in the Room
We’d be remiss if we didn’t discuss the health issues with shoveling snow. A Canadian study offers some additional insights for answering the timing question. Not surprisingly, the amount of snow plays a significant role in health risks. The researchers found that an 8-inch snowfall increased the chances of a medical emergency by 16%.
Interestingly, the data also showed that the day after the snowfall was the deadliest, with a 34% uptick in heart-related fatalities. These findings confirm our advice to split up the job to reduce the strain. That’s particularly true if you’re not an active person. The sudden foray into strenuous activity can also play a role.
The Right Shovel for the Job
Deciding on the best time for shoveling snow begins with choosing the right tool for the job. The first thing to consider is the type of storms you usually get in your area. Some shovels are better suited for different depths. Getting one that is too small or hard to lift will make even small jobs more challenging and time-consuming.
You’re probably familiar with the traditional style snow shovel. It’s often flat with a rectangular metal blade. It can get the job done, but it might make it extra work. The latter is a problem since it can make it riskier for some individuals to use. A riff that you’ll see on this design is one with a curved shaft and more of an ergonomic design that is much easier to lift.
A push-style shovel does a decent job at moving off your sidewalk or drive, not unlike a miniature plow. If it’s light snow, you won’t even have to sling it around, making it a safer option. Another variation on this theme is a scoop that resembles a sled. You can move some serious snow with this one.
Yet another design allows you to use both hands with two handles. It looks like it would be awkward to use. However, it does spare your back. However, it’s not as easy to plow through deep snow. These varying styles show that you have a whole arsenal from which to choose the best shovel for the snow you must move.
Dressing for the Job
We discussed the calorie burn that snow shoveling provides. It’s something to keep in mind when deciding how to dress. You’re engaging large muscles that will generate a lot of heat. You also need to wear something that will give you unrestricted movement of your arms. Of course, layers are the way to go to allow you to adjust your body temperature as you shovel.
We also suggest you consider getting ice cleats for your boots. It’s going to get slippery out there. This simple precaution can help prevent a fall and a trip to the ER. Just be sure to take them off before you go back into the house to avoid scrapping up your floors.
Safety Tips for Shoveling
The data and research have shown that men are more likely to get injured or die from shoveling snow than women. It makes sense when you consider that men have a significantly higher risk of heart-related issues than women. The standard advice is to consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program if you’re over 40.
- Listen to your body. If you’re tired, take a break. The snow will still be waiting for you.
- Engage your legs and not your back when lifting snow.
- Push the snow aside and avoid throwing it whenever possible.
- Wear warm mittens or gloves to prevent frostbite.
The best time to shovel snow will make your job easier. It will minimize the strain and exertion while helping you avoid injury or worse. This activity taps muscles that you may not often use, especially if you are sedentary. We recommend finding someone to give you a hand with this chore if you have a pre-existing health condition. It’s a small price to pay to stay safe.
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay