Health & Fitness

Shoveling snow? Be careful

Make no mistake, shoveling snow in the winter provides a tremendous workout. It works all sorts of muscles and burns calories. If you're not careful, though, shoveling can also result in severe back injury or, even worse, a heart attack.

Clearing a driveway or sidewalk of snow requires preparation and proper body mechanics. Here are some tips:

* Allow yourself plenty of time to shovel. The activity should not be rushed.

* Dress warmly in layered clothing. But don't bundle up to the point that your clothes restrict movement. Keep your field of vision clear and unobstructed by objects, such as a scarf.

* Limber up. Do some light stretching (10 minutes or so) before shoveling.

* Find a shovel that suits your body size. A shovel that is heavy or longer than necessary can lead to muscle strain.

* Hit the fresh stuff. Newly fallen snow is easier to shovel than older, packed snow. And keep an eye out for ice patches. Not only can ice cause you to slip and fall, it also can cause you to strain a muscle.

* Push, don't lift. Keep your shoveling motion steady with few twists and turns. Push snow forward or to the side, not over your back.

* If you need to lift snow out of the way, bend your knees with legs apart and back straight.

Let your legs and arms absorb the stress, rather than your back.

* Don't let fatigue become a problem. Take frequent breaks to allow muscles to rest. Drink plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration.

* Heed the signs. If you experience chest pain or shortness of breath, stop shoveling immediately.

—Kansas City Star

Serving sizes under review

For people who have considered eating a whole sleeve of Girl Scout Cookies at one sitting, labels stating that a single serving is two or four cookies may seem a tad unrealistic — even arbitrary.

Not so, says the Food and Drug Administration. The agency instructs manufacturers to base their serving sizes on its chart of "reference amounts customarily consumed." The RACC chart is based on data from a large national survey that reflects what people eat "under actual conditions of use." It also considers other factors, including the normal serving size in other countries.

For soup, the resulting serving size can be about one cup. For cereal, half a cup. For chips it can be as few as six pieces. And for cookies, the amount is 30 grams — or about four Thin Mints.

Agency representatives agree that serving sizes, which haven't been updated since the Nutrition Facts Label was launched in the early '90s, are in need of review. That process is under way.

But the idea of boosting serving sizes to reflect the habits of an increasingly overweight population has its drawbacks.

"There's been a lot of discussion over whether the current serving sizes accurately represent current eating habits," said FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey. "But the counterpoint question is whether increasing the serving size will implicitly 'permit' people to eat more."

—Chicago Tribune