Raking leaves is a considered a moderate physical activity. Being prepared for the task will help decrease your risk of injury. Here are some important tips to remain healthy.
Tip: Consider hiring help/asking for help with raking or use a leaf blower, particularly if you are older or not in the best of shape. Better to be safe than sorry!
- If you must rake, do it when the leaves are dry.
- Dress appropriately for the weather conditions. Remember, being cold can tighten up the muscles so they don’t work as well. Dress in layers so you can stay warm or shed a layer if you start sweating.
- Pick your rake wisely. Make sure it is constructed well and has a long enough handle so you can keep your back straight while raking. A short handle will cause you to bend too much.
- Stretch before, during, and after raking. This will help prepare your muscles for the task ahead, and keep them from protesting too much. It will also help keep them warm, so they will work better for you! Stretch your arms over your head and then make circles with your arms within your comfort level. Also, bending forward, backward, and to each side will help stretch your muscles and prepare your body for raking.
- Do not twist your back while raking; instead, move your whole body. The spine does not tolerate twisting well!
- Switch sides every few minutes in order to prevent overuse injury. (for example 10 minutes right handed raking and 10 minutes left-handed raking)
- Take a short break each time you switch sides. Use the break to take a few deep breaths, stand up straight, and stretch. Taking breaks will help make sure you are not overworking your muscles and back, so you won’t be as sore later! If you are raking a large area, consider spreading it out over a couple days.
- Stay hydrated!
- Wear shoes with traction and pay attention to your surroundings to prevent tripping and any unexpected encounters with insects or other critters!
- Bagging dos and don’ts:
- Make sure the bag is in front of you, not to your side
- Bend your knees and lift with your leg muscles
- Don’t overfill the bags
- Move filled bags by dragging or using a wheelbarrow instead of lifting
- Use a tarp filled lightly for easy dragging, instead of a bag if you can
When you’re done and standing back admiring your nice clean lawn, stretch some more!
Job well done!
Brenda Ebode, DPT, MBA, is the Director of Rehabilitation Services at Harrington. She has more than 30 years experience as a physical therapist and director of rehabilitation services in several health care venues including community hospitals, skilled home care, skilled nursing facilities and outpatient rehabilitation settings.