Toronto's first snowfall means everyone is pulling out shovels to clean their driveways, but paramedics want people to be 'cautious' while they clear the snow, so they won't put too much strain on their hearts.

"Yes we need to shovel our driveways, but to be cautious when we do it to remember that it is a strenuous activity," explained Yvonne Morelli, an acting paramedic supervisor with Toronto Paramedic Services. 

According to Morelli, smokers, elderly people and people with pre-existing heart problems are most at risk. 

"People do end up getting chest pains and dizziness," she told CBC Toronto.

Morelli hooked up CBC Toronto reporter Shannon Martin to a heart monitor and checked her heart rate and blood pressure before she started shovelling and after.

Shannon Martin on snow shovelling safety2:16

Morelli's number-one tip is to warm-up prior to shovelling.

"Stretch a little bit, walk around your driveway a few times, just getting things warmed up so you're not going right into some very difficult physical activity," she said..

Morelli also reminds people to shovel smaller amounts because snow can weigh more than you think.

Heart rate monitor

Yvonne Morelli, acting paramedic supervisor with Toronto Paramedic Services, tests CBC reporter Shannon Martin's heart rate after shovelling snow. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

"It's heavy and people don't realize, they think it will be a quick job but it does put a lot more strain on people.".

Paramedics see a small spike in the number of phone calls after the first big dump of snow. 

"Just really be aware of if you have anything that's out of the ordinary. If you start to feel dizzy, light-headed, pains in your chest, trouble breathing stop right away and call 911."  


With files from Shannon Martin, Paul Borkwood