One study showed that shoveling snow and running on the treadmill generated roughly the same heart rate in a group of young adult men, and snow shoveling spurred a higher systolic blood pressure.
JAY CANNON | USA TODAY
Shoveling snow isn’t for everyone.
Thousands of people get injured and dozens die every year while taking care of the maligned winter chore. And for those of a certain age or health status, experts say it might be best to leave the shoveling for someone else.
As much as it can seem like a mundane outdoor job, shoveling snow has resulted in thousands of injuries and can even bring on a fatal heart attack.
A peer-reviewed study published in 2010 estimated that nearly 200,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for snow-shoveling-related incidents from 1990 to 2006, or an average of roughly 11,500 people a year.
Soft-tissue injuries accounted for more than half (54.7%) of the cases tracked in the study. Lower-back injuries made up a little more than a third (34.3%) of the cases.
Shoveling snow can also be a trigger for heart attacks, experts say.
The 17-year study recorded 1,647 deaths, all of which were cardiac-related.
So if you need to clear the driveway after a big snowfall, think carefully about who is grabbing the shovel this winter.
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How old is too old to be shoveling snow?
Older middle-aged adults should try to avoid shoveling snow, experts say.
Dr. Barry Franklin has conducted studies on the topic after he knew two people who died during or after snow removal. He cautions against anyone over 45 partaking in the winter chore because of the “perfect storm” of factors that seem to cause heart attacks.
Dr. Luke Laffin, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic, encourages people to start finding other ways to remove snow once they turn 55.
The precise age at which someone should hang up the shovel varies based on the person’s health status and heart history, Franklin says, but he generally recommends older adults to find another way to clear the driveway.
“I think it’s really impossible to say a certain age. I see people every day; sometimes I see a guy who’s 70 who really looks and functions like he’s 40, and other people vice versa,” said Franklin, director of preventive cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation at Beaumont Health in Royal Oak, Michigan.