As I write this, the weather forecast in my area is predicting an unusual 20-30″ of snowfall in my region. Once the snow stops, we’ll be engaged in the enviable task of digging ourselves out.

I’m fortunate enough to live with a group of people who can take care of the shoveling. However, many people with physical challenges (such as acute illness, disability, or age) don’t have household members who are able to take care of the shoveling.

If you’re able, help your physically challenged neighbors out when it snows. (I would generally recommend asking if someone wants help, rather than assuming someone is unable to shovel themselves.) Who knows, maybe they’ll bake you delicious cookies in return.

Another important thing to remember: it’s really easy to injure yourself shoveling lots of heavy snow. Shovel “smart” rather than shoveling fast.

The University of Wisconsin has a very informative safe shoveling guide. Some excerpts:

Remember all that stuff about keeping your knees bent and your back straight when lifting boxes?  Well, it turns out it’s equally true of lifting snow. Especially heavy, wet snow….Also be careful of twisting your body sideways as you lift a full shovel-it’s easy to throw your back out when you meant to simply throw snow….

“Lifting a large amount of heavy snow can dramatically elevate your blood pressure in just a few heart beats. It is often safer to use a smaller shovel and make each lift lighter. You should be able to keep breathing comfortably while you work,” says Jonathon Keevil, MD, of UW Health’s preventive cardiology program.

Stay safe, stay warm, and enjoy the winter wonderland while it lasts!