Is snow shoveling a good workout?

Snow shoveling is a common winter chore for many people living in cold climates. With heavy snow comes the need to remove it from driveways, sidewalks, and other areas around your home. Shoveling snow is hard work and can get your heart pumping. But is it actually a good workout?

Is shoveling snow aerobic exercise?

Yes, shoveling snow is considered an aerobic activity. Aerobic exercise strengthens your heart and lungs by increasing your breathing and heart rate. Shoveling snow involves repetitive arm, back, and leg movements that raise your heart rate and breathing for a sustained period of time.

When shoveling snow, you use the large muscle groups in your arms, legs, shoulders, and back. Lifting and tossing heavy snow engages your cardiovascular system and major muscle groups, providing both a strength training and aerobic benefit.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, a 155-pound person shoveling heavy snow at a fast pace burns around 423 calories in 30 minutes. That’s even more than walking briskly at 4 miles per hour, which only burns around 300 calories in 30 minutes.

So shoveling snow qualifies as a moderate to vigorous aerobic activity, depending on your pace and the weight of the snow you are lifting.

What muscles does shoveling snow work?

Shoveling snow works your upper and lower body at the same time. Here are the major muscle groups engaged when shoveling:

Upper body:

– Shoulders – Deltoids and rotator cuff muscles stabilize your shoulder joint when lifting and tossing snow.

– Back – Latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius muscles. Lifting and twisting motions engage your core back muscles.

– Biceps and triceps – Biceps curl to lift the shovel, triceps extend to toss the snow.

– Forearms – Gripping and rotating the shovel engages your forearm muscles.


– Abdominals and obliques – Isometric contraction stabilizes your spine when shoveling.

Lower body:

– Quadriceps – Squatting motions to lift snow engage your thigh muscles.

– Hamstrings – Bending to lift snow engages your hamstrings.

– Calves – Digging your heels into the ground uses your calf muscles for stability.

– Glutes – Hip extension and abduction motions activate your glutes.

Cardiovascular system:

– Heart and lungs – Aerobic activity like shoveling snow strengthens your heart, lungs, and circulatory system.

So in summary, shoveling snow works all your major upper body muscle groups along with your core, lower body, and cardiovascular system for a total body workout.

How many calories does shoveling snow burn?

The exact calories burned shoveling snow depends on a few factors:

– Your weight – Heavier people burn more calories performing the same activity.

– Snow weight – Wet, heavy snow requires more effort to lift and toss.

– Shoveling pace – Fast and continuous shoveling burns more calories.

– Shoveling time – More time spent shoveling results in more calories burned.

Here are some estimates on calories burned shoveling snow based on a person’s weight and pace:

Weight 30 minutes light effort 30 minutes moderate effort 30 minutes heavy effort
120 lbs 179 calories 298 calories 357 calories
150 lbs 232 calories 374 calories 449 calories
180 lbs 290 calories 460 calories 552 calories

As you can see, in just 30 minutes of moderate shoveling, a 150-pound person can burn around 374 calories. That’s about the same as 30 minutes on an elliptical trainer. Over an hour of continuous shoveling, you can burn over 700 calories for an excellent cardio workout.

What are the cardiovascular benefits?

Shoveling snow provides excellent cardiovascular conditioning. Here are some of the benefits to your heart and circulatory system:

– Strengthens your heart muscle – Shoveling snow makes your heart work harder to pump oxygenated blood throughout your body during aerobic activity. Over time, this strengthens your heart muscle.

– Lowers resting heart rate – Aerobic exercise lowers your heart rate when at rest. A lower resting heart rate is a sign of improved cardiovascular fitness.

– Improves blood circulation – Working your upper and lower body increases peripheral blood circulation through locomotion and repetitive muscle movements.

– Increased lung capacity – The increased oxygen demands of shoveling snow forces deeper breathing, which can expand your total lung capacity over time.

– Burns abdominal fat – Visceral fat around your abdomen and organs puts you at higher risk for heart disease. Shoveling’s aerobic nature helps burn this unhealthy fat.

– Reduces blood pressure – Aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension when performed regularly.

– Improves cholesterol – Shoveling snow helps raise your good HDL cholesterol and lower bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

So in addition to burning calories, snow shoveling provides numerous benefits to your cardiovascular and respiratory systems. It’s an efficient full-body workout to strengthen your most vital organs.

Is shoveling snow high intensity exercise?

How intensely you shovel snow determines whether it qualifies as high intensity exercise.

High intensity interval training (HIIT) involves short bursts of maximum effort, recovering, and repeating. Shoveling at a casual pace with rest breaks is moderate intensity. But shoveling at a fast pace with minimal rest periods can reach anaerobic levels.

The American College of Sports Medicine defines highly intense physical activity as 64-90% of maximum heart rate for your age. Anything above 90% max heart rate is very high intensity anaerobic activity.

Some HIIT snow shoveling ideas include:

– 30 seconds of maximum pace shoveling followed by 60 seconds of rest, repeat

– Shovel for 20 minutes non-stop followed by 10 minutes of rest

– Race a friend to see who can clear an area fastest

– Shovel at maximal effort for as long as you can until exhaustion

Vigorous shoveling that significantly raises your breathing and heart rate into anaerobic zones will qualify as high intensity interval training. Always monitor how you feel and don’t overdo it right away if new to HIIT. Build up intensity slowly over time.

What are the health benefits of shoveling snow?

Beyond the cardiovascular benefits, shoveling snow provides many overall health benefits including:

– Weight loss – Heavy snow shoveling can burn over 700 calories per hour, helping lose or maintain weight.

– Muscle building – Resistance training with a heavy shovel helps build upper and lower body muscle strength.

– Improved endurance – Aerobic snow shoveling improves muscular and cardiorespiratory endurance.

– Reduced stress – The repetitive nature of shoveling and exercise helps reduce mental stress.

– Prevents disease – Active snow removal may help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.

– Stronger bones – Weight bearing aerobic exercise improves bone mineral density, preventing osteoporosis.

– Fights depression – Physical activity stimulates feel-good endorphins and neurotransmitters in your brain.

– Better balance – Shoveling snow improves balance, coordination, and proprioception as you move over uneven surfaces.

So don’t just see snow shoveling as a chore. Take advantage of this vigorous activity and all the health benefits it provides during the winter.

Is shoveling snow a good strength workout?

Yes, shoveling snow can provide an excellent strength training workout, especially if you use good technique.

Shoveling involves lifting and tossing heavy snow, providing resistance exercise for your muscles. Pushing the shovel into deep snow piles further increases resistance, challenging your strength.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) found that shoveling heavy wet snow (weighing 18-20 pounds per shovel) can be equivalent to a challenging resistance workout.

To maximize the strength training benefits:

– Opt for a smaller shovel to increase weight lifted per rep

– Take full shovels and lift snow from low positions

– Drive legs for power, do not bend back to lift

– Keep core engaged throughout for stability

– Use good form – no jerking or twisting

– Go slow and controlled on the lift phase

– Don’t overload the shovel to avoid injury

Focus on good form and controlled movements. Let the weight of the snow provide the resistance without trying to throw or flick it. Shoveling snow is a great chance to build functional strength that transfers to everyday activities.

Does shoveling snow build leg muscles?

Shoveling works several leg muscles thanks to the body mechanics involved. Lifting a shovel full of heavy snow uses your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes for power.

Your quadriceps (front thighs) extend your knees to drive power from your legs as you lift the snow. They work eccentrically lowering down into a squat and concentrically standing up.

Hamstrings (back thighs) bend your knees and hips to lower into a squat when shoveling. They work isometrically to stabilize your knees under load.

Hip extension when standing up from a squat engages your glutes (butt muscles). They also work isometrically for stability in a semi-squatted posture.

Digging your heels into the ground uses your calf muscles for balance and stability when shoveling. Deep snow requires lifting your knees high, engaging your hip flexors.

With proper technique, shoveling snow provides an excellent functional lower body workout you can do anywhere. Use a light shovel and high reps for muscular endurance or a heavy shovel and low reps for maximal strength.

Is shoveling snow good for fat loss?

Yes, shoveling snow is an effective exercise for losing body fat for several reasons:

– High calorie burn – Heavy snow shoveling can burn over 700 calories per hour. A high caloric expenditure from exercise helps create a caloric deficit required for fat loss.

– Increases metabolism – Shoveling snow increases your metabolic rate during and after exercise. Having a higher metabolism makes it easier to lose fat.

– Raises your heart rate – Aerobic activity like snow shoveling maintains an elevated heart rate which helps tap into fat stores for fuel.

– Engages large muscle groups – Using your upper and lower body increases fat burning since more muscles are working.

– Builds muscle – Gaining lean muscle mass boosts your resting metabolism and increases daily calorie burn.

– Short duration – You can burn a lot of calories shoveling snow in a short time period for time efficient fat loss.

For best results, shovel at a vigorous pace with minimal breaks. Also follow a reduced calorie nutrition plan with high protein intake to lose fat without sacrifering hard earned muscle.

What are the risks or dangers of shoveling snow?

Shoveling snow certainly provides many benefits, but also comes with potential risks if you have any pre-existing conditions or use poor form. Some dangers include:

– Heart attack or stroke – Shoveling snow significantly raises heart rate and blood pressure. Those with heart disease are at higher risk of heart attack from overexertion.

– Back injuries – Improper lifting by bending at the waist instead of the knees can lead to back sprains and strains.

– Muscle strains – Shoveling heavy snow uses muscles in ways they aren’t accustomed to, increasing injury risk.

– Exhaustion or fatigue – Attempting to clear too much snow at once can lead to dizziness, nausea, and fatigue.

– Hypothermia – Getting wet from snow along with cold temperatures can cause body temperature to drop dangerously low.

– Frostbite – Prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures can damage exposed skin, especially the nose, ears, cheeks, fingers and toes.

To shovel safely, be sure to stretch and warm up first, lift snow properly using your legs, stay hydrated, and dress in layers. Never shovel to the point of chest pain or exhaustion. Rest periodically to recover and prevent overuse injuries. Know the warning signs and limits of your own health conditions. Consult a doctor before shoveling snow if concerned.

How to shovel snow safely

Follow these basic tips for safe snow shoveling to get a good workout while minimizing injury risk:

– Warm up muscles first – Stretch your legs, back, shoulders, and arms thoroughly before starting. Walk for 5-10 minutes to get muscles warm.

– Use an ergonomic shovel – Choose a lightweight shovel with an angled handle to reduce back strain.

– Wear proper winter gear – Dress in breathable layers and wear boots or shoes with good traction.

– Lift with legs, not back – Maintain a wide squat stance, keep back straight, and lift by extending your knees.

– Pace yourself – Shovel at a steady pace. Don’t try to rush through and clear all snow at once. Take plenty of breaks.

– Avoid twisting – Step in the direction you are tossing snow instead of twisting your back to throw it.

– Push snow rather than lifting – When possible, push accumulated snow to the side instead of lifting the shovel.

– Stay hydrated – Drink water before, during, and after shoveling to prevent dehydration.

– Listen to your body – Stop immediately if you experience chest pain, fatigue, or shortness of breath.

Who should avoid shoveling snow?

The strenuous nature of snow shoveling means it is not suitable for everyone. Those at risk for injury or medical issues should avoid shoveling snow including:

– People with heart conditions – Sudden overexertion raises heart attack risk.

– Those with back problems – Sprains or strains are common shoveling injuries.

– People with respiratory issues – Shoveling requires increased breathing capacity.

– Individuals who are obese – Excess weight compounds physical strain.

– Older adults with low mobility – Risk of falls and fractures increases.

– Pregnant women – Shoveling may cause oxygen deprivation for the fetus.

– Anyone with muscle or joint injuries – Shoveling can aggravate existing injuries.

– Those with hypertension – Spikes in blood pressure are dangerous.

– People taking medications – Stimulants like ADHD drugs are risky with exercise.

– Children under 18 – Heavy shoveling is unsafe for kids and can impair growth plates.

The American Heart Association specifically warns heart disease patients and anyone over 45 who is sedentary against shoveling snow. Even those in good health should start slowly. When in doubt, avoid shoveling altogether or hire assistance.

Snow shoveling form tips

Using proper shoveling technique is critical to getting a safe and effective workout. Follow these key form tips:

– Wide stance for balance – Feet wider than shoulder-width apart.

– Bend knees not waist – Maintain slight knee bend while keeping back straight. Hinge at hips.

– Tight core – Brace abdominals by pulling naval in towards spine.

– Grip ends of shovel – Not too close to the blade for optimal leverage.

– Keep load close – Lift snow close to your body, not with arms extended.

– Use legs to lift – Drive through heels, extend knees and hips to lift snow.

– Smaller loads – Take smaller scoops rather than heaping shovelfuls.

– Walk snow to pile – Slide shovel along ground, don’t carry loads.

– Rotate sides – Switch shovel to opposite hand every few minutes to distribute workload.

Proper lifting mechanics are essential. Let your legs do the work, not your back. Keep the shovel blade close to avoid excessive reaching and back strain.


Shoveling snow is an intense aerobic and resistance exercise when done correctly. It engages nearly every major muscle group while getting your heart rate elevated for a sufficient duration to be considered a vigorous cardio and strength training workout.

The dynamic nature of shoveling snow burns a significant amount of calories while also helping build lean muscle mass. It provides substantial benefits for your cardiovascular health, while also improving endurance, balance, and coordination.

Just be sure to use proper technique, work at an appropriate pace for your fitness level, dress warmly, and not push past the point of fatigue. Start slowly if new to shoveling snow and gradually increase your pace and workload over time. This will ensure you safely get your blood pumping and muscles burning all winter long!

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