Leaf Raking Tips to Make Fall a Little More Comfortable

MediLodge of Rochester HillsFrom the MediLodge of Rochester Hills Therapy Department

There’s a lot to love about fall: crisp air, apple cider, football games, and even those leaves piling up on your front lawn. That’s because raking leaves gives you a perfect opportunity to get outside, get some fresh air, and get in a workout—all at the same time, not to mention that your yard will look great when you’re done.

Raking leaves is considered a moderate physical activity, similar to a brisk walk. It helps build upper body-strength, as well as core strength, or strength in your back and stomach. As you’re raking, your core (or trunk) is working to stabilize your body while your arms are moving. Your lower back muscles are engaging to stabilize your lower body while your torso twists with the movements.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that over 76,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, clinics and other medical settings for injuries related to non-powered garden tools, including rakes, in one year alone. Raking requires a number of different activities, including twisting, bending, lifting, and reaching, that utilize several different muscle groups. Improper use of lawn tools along with the potential for tool-related accidents further compounds the risk of injury to the bones and muscles.

To make it easier on your body, use some leaf-raking tips:

1. Wear layers. Be prepared when you head outdoors. It may be cool when you first head outdoors, but you may work up a sweat after you have been raking for a while. Keep the layers light though, so that you have room to move.

2. Warm up. As with any physical activity, you should warm up your muscles before you start working them. Try walking around the yard, doing some circular arm movements, bending forward and backward, and to each side; you can follow that with some gentle stretches.

3. Watch your footing. Wear shoes with good traction and support to keep you from slipping and falling. Good foot support will also keep your back from tiring as easily.

4. Be aware of your surroundings. Be careful of holes in the ground or objects you can trip and fall on, such as rocks, branches, roots, buried garden tools, or misplaced hoses or lawn ornaments.

5. Heed nature. Look out for insects (especially the stinging kind) and snakes or other critters that might have made the leaves their home. Wear gardening gloves to protect your hands. If there is mold on leaves, trees, or elsewhere in the yard, consider wearing a mask if you have allergies.

6. Stand and move correctly. Pay attention to your raking posture. Form a wide base with your feet and hold the rake slightly toward the end of the handle with one hand and three-quarters of the way down the handle with the other. Be careful not to twist your spine. Instead, move your whole body, not going farther than your feet will allow. Keep your back naturally aligned— try to stand as straight as you comfortably can.

7. Switch sides. Raking on only one side of the body and increase the risk of injury since raking uses the same muscles to do the same movement over and over. To avoid overuse injury, tray switching sides every few minutes.

8. Take it easy. Take our time, especially if you don’t normally do yard work or aren’t very physically active. Don’t try to rake the whole yard at once. Stop and take a break after 10 or 20 minutes and enjoy the fall weather.

9. Drink water. Have bottled water available to ensure you do not become dehydrated.

10. Cool down. When you’re done raking, do some more stretching to help relax tense muscles.

11. Careful bagging. Bagging leaves can involve awkward bending and stooping. If you have to stoop over, try to face forward rather than stooping and twisting to one side, which strains the back.

MediLodge of Rochester Hills

LEAF BAGGING DON’TS!

• Don’t lift bags with your back. Bend your knees and lift with your leg muscles.

• Don’t overfill bags so they become too heavy to lift. Try dragging the bags or using a wheelbarrow if you have to move them long distances.

• If you’re using a tarp and dragging leaves to a curb, don’t overload it. And don’t twist your body when you’re pulling the tarp. If possible, have someone grab the opposite end to help you move the leaves.

• Don’t be a weekend athlete and try to bag all the leaves at once. Pace yourself and tackle leaves in several sections. Better yet, save the bagging for another day since you put your back at greater risk of injury by lifting right after raking.

• Too many leaves to bag? As an alternative to bagging, consider composting your leaves or using them as mulch to cover your garden for the winter.

Raking leaves is not only good exercise for you, it’s good for your lawn; grass that’s covered with leaves can’t soak up sun, which it needs to grow. Raking also will make the outside of your house safer and prettier. So add raking to your physical activity list and welcome those falling leaves!

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For more information on locations and services, visit the MediLodge website.  Find us on Facebook for up-to-date pictures or watch our YouTube channel for videos of events and activities.

MediLodge of Rochester Hills

MediLodge of Rochester Hills

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