Unless you own a snowblower, the chances are good you'll need to shovel some snow this morning. The associated risks, however, can include injuries and even cardiac distress.

Kevin Cornish is Physiotherapy Assistant with the Saskatchewan Health Authority. He says prevention is better than cure, even for muscle injuries.

“The main tips that we would give is to try to do a little bit of a warm up before you start shoveling, and to realize that it is a workout and there's going to be stress on muscles and your heart, and to look for any warning signs,” he said.

“Be aware of your body,” he added. “If you have any symptoms of back pain or strain on muscles, you should be taking a break and looking for better techniques.”

With any exercise regime, it’s important to know the signs to watch for that could indicate more serious health concerns.

“Any cardiac or heart distress would show up in shortness of breath, chest or body pain, heart palpitations,” said Cornish.

He added some experience a feeling of anxiety with a cardiac issue. He noted if you get suddenly very tired or nauseous, those are definitely signs of cardiac distress that mean you will need to seek immediate medical attention.

As infrequent as some peoples' visits to the gym, shoveling snow is a workout nonetheless.

“The cold air makes our breathing less efficient, so just bundle up, stay warm and also realize that if we have cold muscles, we're more apt to strain them,” he said. “So do a warm-up, and take breaks. That's another very important tip is to break it up if you need to.”

Cornish said if you are under the weather, try to get a neighbour or loved one to help with the shoveling duties until you're recovered. He also suggests doing intermittent back extension stretches while shoveling.

Another way to avoid injury is to shovel the snow in layers, especially if it’s warming up and has gotten heavy.

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