If you think all this snow is a pain, wait until you shovel it wrongly.

"If you imagine an engine revving up from zero to 60 in cold weather, it's not going to be great on the engine itself," family practice Dr. Andy Dunn said Wednesday.

"(It's) much like our heart, our heart has to be considered a working engine in our bodies," said Dunn, medical director at the Wyoming Medical Center's Mesa Primary Care office. "We have to be very careful."

Shoveling the heavy, wet snow falling today can require a lot of work, especially for those who may have a history of heart disease, live a sedentary lifestyle, or are prone to back problems, he said.

It also requires some planning for clothing, equipment, posture and pacing, so Dunn offered these tips:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Take medications.
  • Wear appropriate clothing including hats and gloves.
  • Wear sturdy, over-the-ankle, waterproof shoes with layers of socks.
  • Use a small shovel to avoid straining muscles.
  • Take frequent breaks.

Shoveling snow is an aerobic exercise, Dunn said.

"Don't try and power through something to the point of exhaustion or not listening to your body," he said. "Your body will let you know when you've done too much."

For clothing, dress in layers and wear a hat, Dunn said. "You lose a lot of heat through your head and neck to the point where it can be quite deceiving to your body for hypothermic risks."

Likewise, cover your mouth because cold air can cause coughing, wheezing and even chest pain, he said.

The act of shoveling itself requires some skill, too, Dunn said.

"You want to lift with your knees, not your back," he said.

Avoid hunching over and thrusting your back, because that can injure your lower and even upper back, he said. "You want to keep your back upright, close to vertical as you can be."

Have the weight of the shovel centered along with the bent knees, Dunn said.

"Don't try and throw the snow as far as you can," he added. "You don't want to make huge range-of-motion lifts with your shovel. You want to be very cognizant of staying within a very defined range of motion and center of gravity when you're moving snow."

How you breathe -- deeply, slowly -- is important, too, Dunn said.

"You want to breathe in your nose and out your mouth," he said. "You don't want to hold your breath. That's how hernias can occur."

Finally, your body is more important than shoveling snow, so don't tough it out or cowboy up, Dunn said.

"When your red flag is up, you have to shut it down. You have to quit, you have to go inside."