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Using a snowblower is one way to remove snow, but remember to use good body mechanics however you go about clearing a sidewalk or driveway. Photo by Carrie Snyder, Forum Communications Co.

Warm up before you tackle the snow pile

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news Red Wing, 55066
Red Wing Minnesota 2760 North Service Drive / P.O. Box 15 55066

Before piling on the layers and grabbing that snow shovel, warm up. Stretch. Get your blood flowing.

Cold, tight muscles are more prone to injury than loose, flexible muscles.

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If you take a few minutes to warm up before lifting wet, sloppy and heavy snow or even operating a bulky snowblower, you can avoid one of the more common causes of back injuries during the winter.

"A warm-up gradually prepares your body for the intensity of upcoming physical activity. It should feel easier than the shoveling itself, while utilizing the same muscles," said Whitney Quast, exercise physiologist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing.

You can warm your muscles by walking briskly around the house, hopping on the tread mill or stationary bicycle and doing jumping jacks. Next, gently stretch your lower back and the muscles in the back of the thigh.

Using the wrong body mechanics is the next step to injury. Lifting too much or shoveling in the wrong way puts stress on the lower back and can lead to a muscle strain and herniated discs. When possible, push small amounts of snow ahead of you rather than lifting.

Here are some additional tips for removing snow:

• Choose the right equipment. Use a lighter, smaller shovel to reduce the load.

• An ergonomic shovel can help take some of the effort. Remember, though, to bend your knees slightly and use good posture.

• Take breaks. Don't tax yourself.

• If the job is too big, get help.

• Wear proper clothing -- layers, a hat and gloves -- and especially boots with good traction. Snow-covered or icy sidewalks can be slippery. The main purpose behind shoveling is to clear a path so people don't fall and injure themselves.

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