November 30, 2021/Heart Health

Can Shoveling Snow Be Dangerous to Your Heart?

This simple burst of hard work can put some of us at risk for heart attack

man shoveling snow

Waking up to find a thick layer of fresh, crisp snow covering your entire neighborhood can be breathtaking.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

But while most of us are less-than-enthusiastic at the thought of clearing snow from our driveways, there’s a legitimate health reason to avoid this chore.

Experts caution that you have a heightened risk of having a heart attack after shoveling heavy amounts of snow.

Does shoveling snow cause heart attacks?

Cardiologist Luke Laffin, MD, says many people underestimate just how strenuous snow shoveling can actually be.

“Snow shoveling is very similar to being at ‘peak exercise’ on a stress test, so it puts a lot of strain on your heart,” he says. “And for someone who isn’t used to actually exercising and being physically fit, it can predispose them to heart attacks.”

Symptoms of a heart attack after shoveling snow

Dr. Laffin says any significant onset of chest pain, trouble breathing or pain that radiates down the arm or into the neck are hallmark signs of a potential heart attack. Those are reasons to stop and seek medical attention right away.

However, also be sure to brush up on other less common signs of a heart attack because not all of them have classic symptoms.

In addition, if you notice you’re getting tired more easily, feeling like a cold sweat is coming on or feeling light-headed, these could also be signs of a heart attack.


Is shoveling snow bad for your heart?

Shoveling itself isn’t necessarily bad for you — it’s more the conditions under which you’re shoveling that can cause cardiac events.

Too much exertion, too quickly, can trigger a heart attack — especially in the cold — when our arteries tend to constrict, which in turn, can drive up our blood pressure.

Your risk of a heart attack also increases if you’ve been more sedentary than usual in the winter months. (One more reason why you shouldn’t hibernate!)

How to shovel safely

Plan to (or need to) shovel anyway? Dr. Laffin says it’s important to weigh your risks and benefits and proceed accordingly. Try following these 5 tips:

Don’t push yourself too hard

Take your time shoveling. If you feel your body beginning to get tired, go inside. Rest for a little bit.

Make the chore manageable

Try not to tackle your entire driveway all at once. Instead, Dr. Laffin says it’s smarter to divide up the work and take frequent breaks.

Treat shoveling like you would any other sport or exercise

Stay warm (don’t forget to dress appropriately) and hydrate while shoveling snow. It’s critical.


Pay careful attention to how you feel both before and after shoveling

If you or a loved one begins to show signs of heart trouble, or has trouble breathing after shoveling snow, call 911 immediately and seek medical care. If you’re not sure, it’s better to get it checked out.

When is it best to skip shoveling altogether?

If you have more than one medical condition or are over the age of 55, Dr. Laffin says it’s best to get someone else to shovel for you. It’s simply not worth the risk.

“Particularly people that have multiple medical conditions such as coronary artery disease or hypertension, or maybe they have overweight or obesity and don’t get a lot of physical activity — it’s not worth it to risk your heart,” he says.

“I think hiring the kid down the street to do it is a great idea,” Dr. Laffin says.

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Older couple talk while leisurely walk across a bridge
February 29, 2024/Heart Health
Can You Exercise After a Heart Attack?

Absolutely! In fact, in many ways, exercise is key to recovery

Person having a heart attack in background, close up of hand calling 911 on cell phone in foreground
February 28, 2024/Heart Health
Can You Stop a Heart Attack Once It Starts?

There’s no way to stop it once a heart attack is happening, but the most important thing you can do is to call for help

Person enjoying container of assorted fruit
February 28, 2024/Heart Health
How To Protect Your Heart When You Have Prediabetes

You can counter the risk of prediabetes-related heart attack or stroke by eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as well as exercising regularly

Blood pressure cuff on arm and blood pressure-reading device
February 27, 2024/Heart Health
Here’s What Your Blood Pressure Numbers Mean

An ideal blood pressure is less than 120 mm Hg systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic

Cholesterol blocking blood flow in artery
February 26, 2024/Heart Health
What It Means if You Have ‘Sticky’ Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol and lipoprotein (a) cholesterol are more likely to stick to your arteries and lead to dangerous heart events

Doctor shaking hands with patient, with large heart and EKG line behind them
February 19, 2024/Heart Health
How Weight Affects Your Heart

Having underweight, having overweight and having obesity can be dangerous for your heart

Close up of hands holding heart rate wearable watch monitor and their phone
February 12, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
Next Time You Exercise, Consider Wearing a Heart Rate Monitor

This technology can benefit your workouts by helping you hit your target heart rate, resulting in better overall health and wellness

seated doctor and female in doctor office, with female's hand on heart, with daughter
February 8, 2024/Heart Health
Here’s When You Should Go to the Hospital for a Dangerous Heart Rate

A resting heart rate below 35–40 beats per minute or over 100 beats per minute may be cause for concern

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey