Raking Tips to Keep You Healthy
By Physiotherapist, Kathleen Zinck
As autumn approaches, the change of season brings cooler weather and more yard work. If you live in Halifax, you already know that raking leaves is one of these fall tasks, due to all of our lovely trees. It is important to note the risk of injuring yourself while raking. Bending, twisting, and pulling in leaves can cause a lot of strain on your back and shoulders. Below are some raking tips to keep you healthy during the autumn season.
Raking can be an intense physical activity, so remember to pace yourself. As we age, our bodies are less tolerant of long periods of yard work. If you have a big yard, try dividing it up into several days of work. While raking, try setting a timer and stop and take a break every 20 minutes. Don’t forget to stay hydrated!
Before starting yard work, warm up your body by walking around the block, your house, or simply marching on the spot. You should also consider doing a few stretches for tight or problem areas prior to starting yard work.
As obvious as it may sound, dress appropriately for the weather, as leaves tend to be slippery, wear good footwear that will not slip on wet leaves or grass. Try gardening gloves to prevent hurting your hands. If fall allergies are a problem, a dust mask may help you get through the work.
Be sure to use the correct sized rake. A rake that is too long or too short can place unnecessary strain on your back, arms, and torso. Using a lightweight ergonomic rake with your elbows slightly bent will help to maintain better posture. Try to keep upright and avoid a lot of rotation in your back. “Dance” with the rake moving forward and back then shuffle your feet to get the next batch of leaves. When bagging the leaves, bend at the knees with a straight back.
Alternative to raking, consider a leaf blower, outdoor vacuum or other mulching tools. These will collect more leaves in fewer bags and can make it easier to gather leaves under shrubs, hedges and other areas that are difficult to get.
Listen to your body, stretch after you have finished and feel good about the work you have done!