There’s an older Polish man who lives on my block and doesn’t speak English too well. Early this morning, while the rest of Brooklyn and New York City were dreamily avoiding the sleet outside their windows, he told my mother on her morning walk that he enjoyed the workout that shoveling snow provided him.
“Good for you,” my mother said with a jaded laugh. She decidedly does not enjoy the exercise shoveling affords lucky homeowners.
Is there a fitness benefit to shoveling snow? There’s continuous movement (cardio) and carrying of the snow (lifting), which sounds like a balanced workout at your friendly neighborhood gym. In addition, the colder weather increases your body’s efforts to keep you warm, which will burn more calories. Yet that cold temperature also raises blood pressure; don’t let yourself become frustrated by the wintry mix! However, like all exercise, using shoveling as your gym day instead of traversing dangerous roads for your favorite elliptical should be performed carefully and attentively to avoid any muscle strain or extreme exertion that might lead to cardiac issues.
There are a few workouts in shoveling that are reminiscent of typical exercises. First and foremost, the tried and true method of lifting snow with your knees as opposed to your back is the basic, shoulder-width-apart squat with a shovel in hand. As always, make sure not to lock your knees or else you might end up frozen in position. Try not to bend too much with your back as that might lead to lower back pain. Combining this squat with an oblique twist as you cast the snow to its hell (i.e., the street gutter) will make your love handles sweat beneath your Northface. Control your twist and don’t pick up more snow than you can comfortably lift to obtain the best results while maintaining command of your core.
With great exercise comes great risks. Below freezing temperatures will cause the snow underneath the fluffy white on top to become ice and make your shoveling all the more challenging. Although it might seem obvious, wear proper footwear (this is boots weather, not old-running-shoe weather), warm, layered clothing, and move in a slow, deliberate manner. Sure, you might feel pressured to shovel as much and as quickly as you can to return to your warm home with hot chocolate and something good to read or binge watch. But shoveling is not a race and your health and safety are paramount in comparison to season two of “Love” or all the episodes of “This Is Us” you have left to watch.
When it comes down to it, like all other types of exercise, make sure not to push yourself, to take breaks when you feel the need, and to stay hydrated. Shoveling carefully and staying in control of your movements can be beneficial for your fitness, but if the risks are not worth the reward of some calories burned, taking a day off from your routine to spend warm time inside with your loved ones is certainly worth the break in schedule.
Besides, you can always pay someone to do it. Just don’t ask this guy.