HUFFINGTON POST
01/12/2011 10:04 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Health Risks Shoveling Snow

Caution: Before you strap up your boots and grab your snow shovel, you might want to think twice. An average of 11,500 people in the U.S. are sent to the emergency room each year for injuries related to shoveling snow -- injuries caused by slips and falls, acute muscle pain and cardiac problems -- according to a recent study from the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

While people may complain of a sore back (a common snow-shoveling injury), what doctors worry most about are the heart problems that result from the arduous chore. The study found that a mere two minutes of shoveling snow can spike your heart rate to unsafe levels.

Why such an extreme spike? Blame the cold weather. Cold air can cause blood vessels to constrict in the body, resulting in skyrocketing blood pressure, said Barry Franklin, Ph.D., Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Exercise Laboratories at Beaumont Hospital, on ABC News.

Cold weather and an activity that creates "excessive demands on the heart" make for a dangerous mix, he said. "The heart is working very hard, yet we're not getting enough blood flow back to the heart."

So is there a safe way to shovel snow? Snow-blowers considerably reduce the demands on the heart, said Franklin.

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