University of Pennsylvania Health System

Penn Health and Wellness

Monday, January 20, 2014

Snow Shoveling Safety Tips

It didn’t take long for the first snowstorm of 2014 to hit. And, if the forecasters are correct, it surely won’t be the last of the season. While shoveling snow can prove to be a great workout, it can pose health issues if not done properly and if certain warning signs are ignored.

Put Less Pressure on your Back

Shoveling snow can be a real pain. The lower back is the most frequently injured part of the body during snow-shoveling. Musculoskeletal tissue, which supports the body’s bone structure, can become damaged by overexertion or overuse. Some tips to alleviate strain on your back.
    Snow Shoveling Tips
  • Pick a shovel that you feel comfortable with. Shovels that are too large or heavy will force you into unnatural body movements. Be sure to use the tool grip to enhance your leverage.
  • Avoid shovels made from steel as added weight forces you to bend and twist, which could result in spinal injury.
  • Rather than lifting the snow, try to push it in front of you. If you do lift, be sure to lift with your legs. Make sure you squat with your legs apart, knees bent, and back straight.
  • Don’t try shoveling the biggest scoops of snow possible. Shovel in small amounts.
  • Walk to where you want to dump snow. Avoid extending your arms out in order to try dumping snow far away from you. This will add extra strain to your back.
Get more helpful tips to reduce pain while shoveling.

Pace Yourself and Stay Hydrated

Although you may not feel as thirsty as you typically would in the summer, dehydration occurs quickly in cold, dry weather. Some tips on how to pace yourself and stay hydrated:
  • Take frequent breaks and be sure to drink plenty of fluids.
  • Try avoiding heavy meals prior to shoveling as digestion puts strain on the heart.
  • Prior to shoveling it is good to warm up your muscles with light stretching.

Pay Attention to Your Breathing and Your Pulse

Shoveling snow is a strenuous exercise that can put undue strain on the heart. Factor in cold air, which constricts the blood vessels and increases blood pressure, and you have a dangerous combination for people with coronary artery disease or other forms of heart disease.

So before you go shovel your walkway or let a loved one shovel their own, take a few moments to review some heart attack symptoms.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Travel Medicine: Stay Healthy While Traveling

Travel medicine expert John J. Stern, MD, chief of the Division of Infectious Disease and Chairman of the Infection Prevention Committee at Pennsylvania Hospital discusses the importance of being prepared when planning to travel abroad.
Penn Travel Medicine
John J. Stern, MD

What is travel medicine and why is it necessary?

For many, traveling can be an enriching experience that opens their minds to diverse ways of life. The memories made on these adventures, can last a lifetime. These adventurers, though, are likely to encounter numerous health risks that many are ill-prepared for.

Our job, as Penn Medicine Travel providers, is to stay current about disease outbreaks around the globe so that you are prepared and able to enjoy your trip. We offer guidance, advice, immunizations, and any necessary prescriptions based on your trip plans.

Unfortunately, traveling to developing countries (or anywhere outside of the United States) can subject the traveler to a small, but real, risk of acquiring one of numerous tropical infectious diseases. Because insects are the most common carriers of the diseases, oftentimes, travelers do not know they have been infected for quite some time. With just a small amount of preparation, the risks of contracting one of these diseases can be significantly lowered.

How can Penn Travel Medicine help?

Penn Travel Medicine
Penn Medicine Travel providers offer services for all types of travelers. If you are planning a short trip or a prolonged period living abroad, we can help. After you depart for your trip, our physicians make themselves available in the event you become ill and require advice.

We provide a full range of immunizations, such as Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Polio, and are licensed by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) as a qualified center to provide yellow fever immunizations. In the event a traveler returns with an illness, our group of board certified infectious disease specialists are ready and able to provide care and, if needed, admission to Pennsylvania Hospital.

Our group has been providing travel medicine services for over 30 years and has cared for a countless number of travelers.

Don’t take a chance on your health. If you’re planning to travel internationally, let Penn Medicine Travel Medicine help you be fully prepared. We are also more than happy to speak with patients interested in our service prior to their visit.

Happy Traveling!

For more information or to make an appointment,
call 800.789.7366 (PENN) or visit Penn Travel Medicine.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Fight the Winter Workout Woes

Lori M. Noble, MD, a primary care physician at Spruce Internal Medicine, located at the new Penn Medicine Washington Square building, discusses ways to keep active during the colder months.
Lori M. Noble, MD
Lori M. Noble, MD

When it’s cold and blustery outside, your warm and fluffy slippers have a tendency to look much more enticing than your running shoes. Before you know it, one day off turns into two and, eventually, that short exercise holiday has turned into an outright sabbatical.

This doesn’t have to be the case, though. Some simple tips to help stay active this winter:
  1. Switch it up: Who says you have to exercise the same way throughout the year? If you enjoy jogging or biking, there are great indoor alternatives to these activities.

    Try an exercise DVD series, sign up for an up-tempo Zoomba class, or try honing your swimming skills at the local YMCA. If you want to continue biking, get a stand that allows you to turn your road bike into a stationary one.

  2. Squeeze it in when and where you can: You can burn calories by making small changes to your daily routine. Did you know that an individual weighing 200 pounds can burn up to 12 calories an hour simply by choosing to stand rather than sit? That adds up to about 100 calories in an 8-hour workday, which is about the same as running a mile!

    And we often forget that there is a built-in gym in every office building - the stairs. Take them whenever you need to go between floors. Take it a “step” farther and carve out part of your lunch break to walk or run a few flights.

  3. Dress the part: If you know you won’t be able to get past the distractions at home or work to make exercising indoors possible, make exercising outside easier.

    You’ll need breathable, but fitted attire to keep warm and help reduce sweat. Because the body is mainly focused on warming your core, a hat, gloves, and warm socks are critical to feeling comfortable when the cold really hits.

  4. There’s power in numbers: When motivation is lacking, nothing is more powerful than the support of a friend. Try organizing a neighborhood walking club, or reach out to that person with whom you just never have enough time to catch up. Time flies when you’re having fun, so that 30-minute jog will inevitably feel much shorter in the company of friends.

  5. Track your progress: Setting goals is a great way to keep yourself motivated. Jot down your exercise plan for the month while keeping in mind the progress you hope to make. Keep the goals attainable, like increasing your workout by a few minutes each day. It's also nice to have a little reward planned once you've met your goal, like buying that new pair of sneakers you've had your eye on.
This winter, don’t let workout woes slow you down. Keep it interesting, and you’ll find it easier to keep moving.

Got an exercise tip you want to share? Let us know how you plan to stay active, indoors and out.
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