Shoveling Snow and Heart Health
Q: My husband often tries to get out of shoveling the snow by claiming that
it's not good for his heart. Is this true?
Dr. Donnica: It amazes me what some people will say to avoid chores! But
your husband may be correct, depending upon his health history. There are more
fatal heart attacks among snow shovelers after heavy snowfalls. This may be due
to the sudden demand shoveling places on a previously sedentary person's heart.
Snow shoveling may also increase heart rate and blood pressure. One study found
after two minutes of shoveling, sedentary men's heart rates rose higher than those
normally recommended for aerobic exercise. Shoveling can be more stressful in
colder weather, making it harder to work and breathe.
Good news: 15 minutes of snow shoveling counts as moderate physical exercise.
To get in shape, your husband may need to shovel (or do other exercise) more
frequently, rather than less, IF he is in relatively good health.
Those most at risk for a heart attack should consider paying a teenager to
shovel, i.e. anyone who has already had a heart attack; has a history of heart
disease; has high blood pressure or cholesterol; smokes; and/or who leads a
Created: 5/1/2004  - Donnica Moore, M.D.