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Dr. Dave Hnida: Be Prepared For Snow Shoveling, Think Of It As Combo Of Weight Lifting And Aerobics

DENVER (CBS4) - The forecast calls for up to 25 inches of snow in the Denver metro area this weekend and the precipitation will be full of moisture. That means it will be heavy, prompting CBS4 Medical Editor Dr. Dave Hnida to share some advice for shoveling it.

"You need to look at this as the '2021 Colorado Snow Olympics' with the main event with being snow shoveling which we really don't train for on an everyday basis," he said on CBSN Denver.

Hnida said it is important to think about the three stages of shoveling: what to do before, during and after shoveling to make sure we don't hurt our bodies, especially our backs or hearts.

He said the first step is to come up with a plan to deal with the feet of snow before you start.

"You want to think about doing this in segments. The one thing you don't want to be stuck with is going out and shoveling feet of snow that's very wet and very heavy."

He said to consider shoveling when 6 inches have fallen, heading inside then waiting until another 6 inches fall, then continue at intervals rather than trying to shovel it all at once when the storm is over.

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Also, make sure to dress appropriately.

"Dress in layers, certainly, but more importantly, wear good footwear because one thing we see is a lot of slips and falls which can mean broken bones."

Another piece of advice for before you start shoveling, do try to stretch and prepare physically rather than just jumping in full steam ahead.

When you do make it outside, remember shoveling is a combination of weightlifting an aerobics, so start out slow.

"You want to begin with half shovels and maybe try to as much pushing of snow as you are lifting," Hnida said. "Remember most injuries take place early on in the course of shoveling."

"The other thing to think about is what we call 'Being a square.' What that means is literally your physical positioning here."

"We want you to have your feet planted firmly and square up to the snow snow that are shoveling. People get back injuries, shoulder injuries because they're lifting and twisting. They're bending forward at the waist in awkward positions and that can really play a big role in causing an injury and a lot of soreness."

Hnida also said to make sure to take breaks while you are shoveling, stopping at least every 20 minutes to give yourself a break. He also said to make sure not to strain to lift or hold your breath because that increases the risk of a heart problem and drives up blood pressure.

And when you're done, make sure to cool down.

"We like you to just sort of taper down in terms of your activity, that gives your heart a chance to recover."

Hnida also said it is important to make sure to hydrate; you should do it while shoveling but definitely make sure to do so when you are done.

He also said he knows we all get tired after shoveling, and rest is good -- but it should be modified rest.

"Some people just plop down and they're done for hours after shoveling. We'd like you to just keep moving a bit so you don't end up stiffening up."

Hnida also said if you have any pain or sign of injury, it's important to get that checked out.

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