From bright yellows to dark reds, fall is the time to be appreciating one of nature’s greatest gifts: the changing tree foliage. As the weather cools and summer slowly becomes winter, you may need to start raking leaves. Raking can be a great form of moderate exercise; however, too much twisting, reaching, bending, and lifting can put excessive stress on your spine, leading to back strain or more serious injuries.
Avoid injuries this fall by following our therapists’ expert tips below:
Before You Hit The Yard
- Loosen up your major muscle groups with warmup exercises for your shoulders, legs, and back
- Wear well fitting shoes with good soles to reduce the chance of slipping and to provide your back with better support
- Hold the rake handle close to your body so you can maintain good posture while you rake. Keep one hand near the top of the rake for better leverage, and use your arms and legs more than your spine to rake.
- Change sides frequently and avoid twisting from the waist. When raking, the tendency is to plant your feet in a fixed position and rake in several directions from that position. Such a method increases the risk of injury. Instead, place one foot ahead of the other, which allows you to shift forward and backward more easily as you rake.
- Take frequent breaks and/or change to a different activity.
- When bagging leaves, lift manageable loads. Keep your back straight and use your legs to do the lifting. If you have to stoop, face the pile of leaves and make sure you don’t twist as you lift.
- Don’t try to overreach to get those last few leaves off the ground.
- When lifting a bag of leaves, tense your stomach muscles to give your back additional support and keep the bag close to your body.
- Don’t pack too many leaves into one bag, especially if they’re wet – they will be heavy and awkward to lift, increasing the risk of a summer-fun-ending injury.
- When finished for the day, take a few minutes to cool down by doing the same exercises you did before raking.