A few elements of winter all coming together turn the necessary act of shoveling snow into a potentially dangerous activity for your heart.
As the experts at Sanford Health in Fargo showed Valley News Live today, it doesn't take long to get your heart rate too high.
"Cold air puts a lot of stress on our heart; a lot of stress on our body. As we breathe in, our blood vessels constrict, heart rate goes up, blood pressure goes up" says Sanford Health Exercise Physiologist Brad Hintermeyer.
Pair that with the physical exertion of lifting wet, heavy snow and it could be a recipe for heart attack.
"The effort it takes to lift that versus doing normal activities is quite a bit higher," he says.
In fact, it can take six times as much oxygen to shovel snow. Valley News Live Reporter Mellaney Moore shoveled snow for three minutes wearing a heart monitor.
"I'm 22 years old. The average healthy, aerobic heart rate for someone like me is 118 to 168 beats per minute. I shoveled about this much in three minutes. My heart rate? 178," she says.
Which goes to show that at any age, you need to watch for the warning signs.
"Shortness of breath, chest pain, pain radiating to the shoulder into the jaw and across the back. You may also break out in a cold sweat," says Hintermeyer.
It's an activity that forces many outdoors when they might not be prepared for it. The City of Fargo has an ordinance requiring sidewalks to be cleared by 9:00 at night.
"It's a lot of stress on the body, a lot of stress on the heart and you just need to be prepared for that," says Hintermeyer.
Experts at Sanford Health say there are a few ways to make shoveling snow easier on yourself: Get warmed up before going outside. When you get outside, hold the shovel close to your body and always remember to lift with your legs. Most importantly, listen to your body and call 911 if you experience any of those warning signals for heart attack.
A good test to see if your heart rate is getting too high is the "talk test." If you can't complete a sentence without taking a breath or gasping for air, it's time to take a break before heading back outside.