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Off-Topic Heart attack risk shoveling snow?

the hansenator

Level 6 Valued Member
I was just reading that people older than 55 are at higher risk of heart attack while shoveling snow. I'll be 52 in a couple of weeks and the weather is cooling off so I've been wondering - How much should I worry? Is there any particular training or preparation, besides just not being sedentary, that will minimize your risk? Can anyone talk about this or expand on it?
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
My understanding is that it's the high level of exertion, and nothing to do specifically with the activity of shoveling snow, that is the risk factor. As a group, people older than 55 are overweight, weak, and lack conditioning - if this doesn't describe you, then my non-medical recommendation to you is to use common sense shoveling snow just as you would for any other physical activity but don't otherwise avoid it.

-S-
 

Boris Bachmann

Level 6 Valued Member
I can't imagine there's anything particularly stressful shoveling snow vs. other kinds of exercise. However, my (disclaimer - not a medical anything) guess is that most people shoveling snow are overweight and out of shape to begin with, then probably get overheated and dehydrated and, with the weather being cold, probably don't stop to rest and/or realize the need to rehydrate, all of this exacerbating potential heart issues.
 

Coach Louie

Level 1 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Pavel talks about this in his Enter the Kettlebell book. He talks about someone named Dr Sears and is the author of the book “The Doctor’s Heat Cure.” He explains that many people think they need to perform exercise for a long period if time to make their heart stronger. However, he states that the more your fitness level improves, the more you should decrease the duration if your training session, ie. <10 minutes of swings. He explains that the natural state of exercise is to get the heart pumping when called to do so. Start the training session at about a level 5 and end it near a 10. For me, what I do is a short warm up ie, a few halos, a swing, clean, press, squat, snatch, and get down. Both left and right. Then I get right into what I plan to perform. Sometimes I forgo the warm uo entirely and just start swinging light and try to hit the different volume knobs of my power in my swing. I think this best conditions the heart to be prepared to take that sudden spike when it happens. My wife is an ER nurse and has to leap up in a moments notice as do many people for their respective professions.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
Shoveling snow = moving load with a 3rd class lever - it can be very hard going on wet snow involving a ton of core strain. Probably the only real high intensity exercise a lot of the victims have had all year, and for many years...

My theory, which may be completely wrong, is that repeatedly triggering the valsalva maneuver in an older unfit person could be part of it.
Makes a lot of sense to me.
 

Boris Bachmann

Level 6 Valued Member
Pavel talks about this in his Enter the Kettlebell book. He talks about someone named Dr Sears and is the author of the book “The Doctor’s Heat Cure.” He explains that many people think they need to perform exercise for a long period if time to make their heart stronger.
I enjoyed Dr. Sears book on PACE (I don't remember what the acronym stands for). The idea that the heart needs to be trained to endure sudden jumps was interesting and makes sense intuitively. (again, non-medical anything disclaimer)
 

the hansenator

Level 6 Valued Member
The concerns I read about are exactly what different people mentioned - Sedentary lifestyle, Valsalva, and the cold which constricts blood vessels and increases risk.
 

Kev

Level 4 Valued Member
Yeah it’s the same as shovelling dirt in the garden or digging. I read about it years ago. The strain literally takes the heart from resting to jacked in a very short period of time and if the old ticker ain’t particularly prepared it can lead to a bad case of, how you say? Death. That aside so can sprinting for a bus or taking a flight of stairs. I don’t think this could possibly apply to someone in good shape who does kettlebell training or any other physical exertion. Otherwise there would be no old farmers or Irish navies digging roads etc. This reminds of of the shovel lift by Steve Justa. Loading a barbell at one end and simulating shovelling with it, randomly.
 

the hansenator

Level 6 Valued Member
Shovel lift, interesting...

I've wondered before what's the best way to get in shape for shoveling snow. I suppose actually doing that activity would be best if there was a way to be consistent and stay on a schedule. Otherwise, focus on posterior chain and core? Perhaps the full contact twist and/or the shovel lift?
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Sometimes I forgo the warm uo entirely and just start swinging light and try to hit the different volume knobs of my power in my swing. I think this best conditions the heart to be prepared to take that sudden spike when it happens. My wife is an ER nurse and has to leap up in a moments notice as do many people for their respective professions.
I read or heard somewhere recently that one measure of health is the ability to break into a full sprint without any warmup. (If anyone knows the source, please let us know.) It seems a reasonable metric to me.

-S-
 

Pete L

Level 5 Valued Member
I read or heard somewhere recently that one measure of health is the ability to break into a full sprint without any warmup. (If anyone knows the source, please let us know.) It seems a reasonable metric to me.

-S-
The Immunity Code, Joel Greene?
 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
This reminds of of the shovel lift by Steve Justa. Loading a barbell at one end and simulating shovelling with it, randomly.
I used an offset loaded pole as my primary upper body resistance for about a year, went so far as to make one from a spinlock barbell. Came up with four lifts that covered most of my basic shoulder movement angles, core got very strong - I don't think my abs and serratus ever looked so defined without directly training them.

It puts a lot of strain on bicep and forearm attachment points though. Shoveling clay or wet snow, paddling a canoe - never easier.
 

william bad butt

Level 6 Valued Member
I wonder if just getting your squat and deadlift up to a heavy weight, including the use of the valsava maneuver, is enough to adapt your heart to he able to handle snow shoveling and reduce the risk of heart attack.

It wouldnt surprise me if my blood pressure and pulse DOUBLED during a heavy lift.

Eric
 

Kev

Level 4 Valued Member
I used an offset loaded pole as my primary upper body resistance for about a year, went so far as to make one from a spinlock barbell. Came up with four lifts that covered most of my basic shoulder movement angles, core got very strong - I don't think my abs and serratus ever looked so defined without directly training them.

It puts a lot of strain on bicep and forearm attachment points though. Shoveling clay or wet snow, paddling a canoe - never easier.
Dude spin lock barbells are amazing for that lift. I also always preferred a crappy spin lock for barbell complexes compared to an oly bar.
 

Kev

Level 4 Valued Member
Paul Chek specifically named snow shovelling as functional cardio in an article in I think Muscle and Fitness.
 

BrianCF

Level 6 Valued Member
How to reduce heart risk.
Fill gas in engine, check oil. Turn on choke. Plug starter into wall and snow blower. Press button. Snow blower starts. Unplug cord from starter.

I only shovel my deck and I'm more worried about my SI joint and lower back, vs. heart attack. Age 52, will be 53 in February
 
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