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The Effects of Shoveling on Your Heart - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

The Effects of Shoveling on Your Heart

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The snow rolled through the Valley and certainly left its mark in some areas. In Fargo-Moorhead, we saw more than five inches of snow.

That brought out the snow blowers and made for some tough shoveling. But just how tough is the shoveling on your body?

Many of you may not know that shoveling can be very strenuous on the heart, especially when trying to do it quickly and when you may not be in great shape.

Valley News Team's Brandon Clark found out firsthand just how much a heart has to work.

Brad Hintermeyer, an exercise physiologist at the Sanford Cardiac Rehab center, says a good aerobic range is 65-85 percent of what a person's maximum heart rate would be.

For Brandon, a maximum heart rate is 198. Hintermeyer says his target heart rate levels should be between 128 and 168 beats per minute.

Brandon started out with a heart rate of 90, but five minutes into shoveling, his level spiked to 166, the edge of safety.

Hintermeyer says, "If we were actually using Brandon's heart rate prescription in the gym, this would be the high end. If he's getting above that, close to 168, we'd say slow it down."

But why do heart rates rise so quickly?

"People don't tend to warm up before they start shoveling snow. And any time you lift push or pull, that heart rate tends to increase rapidly," says Hintermeyer.

Without a warm-up, you stress your heart right away. That stress may not necessarily be good, especially if you are not well-conditioned. Good conditioning means getting at least 30 minutes of cardio a day for five days a week. 

Hintermeyer says, "You might have certain heart symptoms like chest pain, pain between the shoulder blades, pain running down your arm up the jaw."

Those symptoms, at worst, can lead to a potential heart attack. You could also see problems with your muscles, like lower back issues and a lot of soreness.

How, then, can you make sure you are staying safe?

One of the best ways you can tell if your heart rate is still at a safe level is called the "Talk" test. If you can complete a sentence without much difficultly, you are still at a safe rate. If it becomes tough, and you are not able to, you might have to think about taking a break.

So be sure to start out slow and take shoveling in chunks.

When you finish, it is best to sit and relax. How long it takes you to recover depends on the shape you are in.

You might also consider stretching to reduce the stiffness you will feel the next day.

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