As the cooler temps and shorter days are here, most of us are rushing to squeeze in any last opportunity we can to enjoy the outdoors. What better way to accomplish this than by tidying up the yard after the leaves have fallen and accumulated into mounds of what seems like endless labor.
Love it or hate it, raking leaves makes for a great way to exercise and
get some fresh air, though if done without the right care or attention,
your body can be at serious risk of strains and pains.
Given the repetitive nature of motions and excessive loads associated
with this activity, it’s important to follow techniques that promote proper
posture and body mechanics.
Here are some tips to make raking leaves easier on your body:
Incorporate at least 10-15 minutes of stretching before hitting the
yard to loosen up your muscles and joints. Be sure to focus on
your wrists, hands, neck, shoulders, back and hips.
Choosing the right equipment
Choose a rake made of bamboo, flexible plastic or flexible steel and avoid getting one that’s proportionate to your body size to avoid having to overcompensate your posture.
Wear appropriate footwear
Be sure to wear shoes or boots with good support and skid-resistant soles. More support will give you more stability, and non-slip soles will minimize sliding out on wet leaves.
Protect your eyes and hands
It’s important to wear gloves to avoid damaging your hands and spreading possible irritants. It’s also crucial to wear protective eyewear to reduce the amount of dust, dirt or other particles that can irritate your eyes.
It’s all in the form
To help avoid strain, keep your weight centered and legs bent. When in motion, rather than twisting your waist, place one foot ahead of the other in the direction you are raking - this allows for a natural shift forwards and backwards. And when pulling the leaves, keep the rake close to your body to avoid any unnecessary loads on your spine.
Switch it up
Swap the positioning of your hands to avoid repetitive twisting of the waist and reduce muscle exhaustion. And be sure to keep your hands spread apart to help with downward force of the rake – doing this will also allow your arms and legs to assume more load than your spine.
Use your knees
When lifting and unloading leaves into yard bags, keep your back straight and bend with your knees and hips. Let your legs do the work, not your back.
Respect your limits by taking frequent breaks to avoid overexertion – an ailment commonly associated with repetitive activities.
Although it may be cool outside, you’ll still most likely be working up a sweat, so stay hydrated. Staying hydrated is also a great way to decrease joint pain.