Avoiding Snow Shovel Blues

With the winter months upon us, and Jack Frost here to stay, it is inevitable that snow removal is in our future. Everyday common tasks, recreational activities, and basic chores can pose a risk for even the most fit individual if he, or she, has not warmed up properly. Simply going out to shovel after being inactive in bed, on the couch, or using the computer, makes the body susceptible to muscle spasms, strains, sprains, and disc irritation (especially in the lower back).

sbow pain

Just before it snows (or rains) you, or someone you know, may have experienced aches and pains in old injuries of the back, knees, shoulders, hands, etc. This sensation of pain is partially due to the fact that as the weather changes so too does the barometric pressure. Just like water, pressure often travels from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration. As the pressure around us drops, the pressure in the fluid surrounding our joints attempts to push outward, creating the sensation of pain. This unique pain can be further aggravated (intensified) by simply going out into the cold weather without proper clothing. As a person becomes cold, the blood vessels in their arms and legs constrict to conserve heat for the vital organs (e.g. heart). This decrease in blood results in a decrease in oxygen to the muscles. Without proper amounts of oxygen the muscles become tight and spastic, increasing the likelihood of injury (think “pulled muscle”).

Along with dressing properly, it is essential that anyone working outside perform a thorough warm-up, including light aerobic activities and functional stretches. Light aerobic exercises can include walking, jogging, performing jumping-jacks, stationary biking, and using an elliptical. A functional exercise, also known as a dynamic exercise, is any movement that utilizes multiple muscles, and takes the muscles/underlying joints through their proper ranges of motion. Examples of dynamic exercises include air squats (without weights), lunges, and bringing your elbow towards the opposite knee while marching. Along with properly warming-up, there are various tips to keep in mind to help reduce the chance of injury with shoveling snow. These tips include:

  1. Be prepared – knowing it is going to snow will afford you ample time to wake-up, and shovel snow prior to work/school
  2. Wear multiple layers of clothing to keep your muscles warm and flexible
  3. When shoveling, it is very important to simply push the snow forward, rather than attempt to throw it.
  4. Avoid sudden twisting and turning movements
  5. As is the case when lifting anything, it is always best to lift with your legs rather than your back. Due to the length of the shovel, and the effects of physics, the perceived weight of the snow is much heavier than the actual weight of the snow being lifted
  6. Take frequent rest breaks to decrease the strain on your joints and muscles
  7. Always perform a series of active cool-down stretches following shoveling, or any other winter recreational activity

snow penguin

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Orange is the New Green (Smoothie)!

For those of you looking for a little variety, in your smoothie quest for health, try this sweet and delicious (yet nutritious) sweet potato smoothie.  Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin-A (hence the orange color), providing nearly 400% of your daily recommended amount.  Sweet potatoes also contain low levels of important minerals, including magnesium, potassium, iron, and manganese.  Potatoes, in general, also provide small amounts of protein and fiber (roughly 2 g. and 3 g. respectively).  Fiber is essential for blood vessel and intestinal health, and provides the body with general inflammation support.  Although sweet potatoes are high in carbohydrates, many of them are complex in nature.  Complex carbs typically breakdown slower in the body, causing a more controlled release of sugar and insulin (essentially eliminating blood sugar spikes).

As stated in my previous blog post, Drink Your Way to a Healthier New Year, one of the best, and perhaps easiest, life-style changes a person can make is to begin incorporating healthy, live foods into their daily routine.  When thinking of a food as “living” or “dead,” there are two important aspects to consider; will it nourish my body and will it expire in a reasonable time period.  Unless food is preserved in a historical manner ( e.g. fermenting or canning), it should be unable to “survive” in your pantry for years at a time.  This extended shelf life, in most processed foods, can be attributed to chemical additives and preservatives that often promote inflammation and toxic overload in our bodies.  While these processed foods can be found in most meals throughout the day, a main offender is often breakfast and/or snacks.

My proposal, to you, is that rather than reach for a granola bar, bagel, donut, or sugary strudel, make yourself an Orange SmoothieThis smoothie is quick and easy to make, provides tons of essential vitamins (including Vitamin-C), minerals (Magnesium and Potassium), and fiber (to help remove “Bad” Cholesterol and leave you feeling fuller longer).  Best of all… KIDS LOVE IT!!!

Orange Smoothie Recipe

Sweet Potato Smoothies

1  1/2  Cooked & Peeled Sweet Potatoes

1 Banana (Preferably Frozen)

1 Madjool Date (Pitted)

1 C. Almond Milk

1 C. Water

Dash of Cinnamon

A Few Ice Cubs

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until a smooth consistency is obtained.  Add additional liquid, as needed, if smoothie remains thick/unprocessed. Drink the smoothie within 20-30 minutes of blending to receive the most health benefits from your “living” food.

TIP:  It is always best to rinse the blender out immediately after use, to avoid stubborn stuck on pulp.