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A nice snow is certainly welcome considering our region is in a drought, but the thought of moving that snow is sometimes daunting.  Most of us are less-than-enthusiastic at the thought of clearing snow from our driveways, and for some, there’s a legitimate health reason to avoid this chore. 

Ryan Lieske, PA, Phelps Memorial Emergency Services, said, “Many underestimate just how strenuous snow shoveling can be.”  He added, “Shoveling snow can put a lot of strain on your body, including your back and your heart”

He added that the activity may be good exercise, but for someone who is not used to exercising and being physically fit, it can pose dangers such as heart attacks.

Lieske said symptoms of a heart attack after shoveling snow can include any significant onset of chest pain, trouble breathing or shortness of breath, pain that radiates down the arm or into the neck.  Any of these are reasons to stop and seek medical attention right away. 

He said there are also less common signs of a heart attack such as not being able to catch your breath once the physical activity has stopped, continued sweating, clammy skin, nausea and/or vomiting, lightheadedness or dizziness.

“Too much exertion, too quickly, can trigger a heart attack, especially in the cold when our arteries tend to constrict, which in turn, can drive up our blood pressure,” said Lieske.  

If you are going to shovel, try these tips:

  • Don’t push yourself too hard.  Take your time and take lots of breaks if you get tired. 
  • Treat shoveling like you would any other sport or exercise.
  • Dress appropriately and stay hydrated.
  • Use the appropriate shovel that may be smaller in size to avoid lifting too many pounds of snow at a time.
  • If you have more than one medical condition, it may better to let someone else shovel the snow for you. It may not be worth the risk to do it on your own.


Pay attention to how you feel before and after shoveling.  If you have signs of a heart attack or trouble breathing, call 911 immediately and seek medical care.  If you’re not sure, it’s better to get it checked.