Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.

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Shoveling burns calories, but be wary of heart woes


Shoveling snow is great exercise. It burns about 422 calories in an hour in a 150-pound person, says a calculator at

But be careful: Your heart attack risk is higher when you’re shoveling snow. That’s partly because shoveling snow is hard work, and partly because cold weather constricts arteries, which raises blood pressure, the Cleveland Clinic says on its website.

A few tips for safe shoveling:

  • Clear snow in chunks rather than doing it all at once.
  • Be sure to stay hydrated.
  • Take frequent breaks.

If you start suffering chest pain or feeling nauseous while shoveling, stop right away — those are warning signs of a heart attack. Other warning signs include shortness of breath, dizzyness, sudden weakness or heaviness in one or both arms, and uncomfortable sensations in your neck, jaw, back or arms.

You can read more about how to protect your heart while shoveling snow here, in a Harvard Medical School publication. The Cleveland Clinic advises older people and those with heart problems not to shovel at all. (That’s what neighborhood kids are for, right?)

If you see someone suffering from cardiac arrest while shoveling (or doing anything), the American Heart Association emphasizes doing two things right away, said Sharon Allen, manager of the American Heart Association Training Center at Mary Washington Healthcare:

  • Call 911.
  • Push hard and fast on the center of the person’s chest.

If you’re nervous about performing chest compressions, Allen recommends downloading the association’s Hands-Only CPR app to learn more. You can also get information about hands-only CPR here.

I’ll share more information about CPR, and Allen’s advice, in an upcoming story. For now, shovel safely.