Take a chilly stroll around your neighborhood and you’ll find business and homeowners synchronized outside their stoops, shoveling out the Bomb Cyclone’s snowplosion from the sidewalks.
New York City law requires that “every owner, lessee, tenant, occupant or other person having charge of any lot or building must clean snow and ice from the sidewalks adjacent,” according to NYC.gov. But some of these NYC residents diligently carrying out their civic duties could be digging themselves an early grave.
In an article for CBS News, Jack Goodman, Professor of Kinesiology and Phys Ed. at Mt. Sinai Hospital, University of Toronto, discusses how the grueling ordeal could lead to cardiac arrest.
Goodman explains that while snow shoveling certainly counts as a good workout — a Harvard Medical School study found that 30 minutes of snow shoveling burns up to 223 calories in a 155-pound individual — it also puts undue strain on the heart.
In folks who might be suffering from coronary disease and not know it, the combination of the vigorous exercise and the cold weather could create the “perfect storm” for a heart attack.
Goodman explains that people are more likely to have a heart attack while exercising than at rest. An activity like snow shoveling rapidly increases oxygen to the heart, increasing blood flow and causing the heart to beat faster. In individuals suffering from heart disease, coronary blockages could cut off oxygen and blood flow to the heart, leading to arrhythmia or cardiac arrest. Moreover, inhaling the freezing weather can cause blood vessels to constrict and increase the likelihood of blood clots.
Goodman notes that if you’re healthy and relatively fit, you likely don’t have anything to worry about. But the next time you bundle up and head out for a deep dig, he recommends first warming up for 5-10 minutes. Start by shoveling small amounts of snow and covering your mouth with a scarf to cut down on cold air inhalation, and take breaks if you need to. When you’re finished, cool down by walking around the block before rushing back inside to take a load off.