Fall is here!
As autumn settles in, the colors change from plush green to vibrant orange. On a brisk morning walk, you can hear the crunch of leaves under your feet while the dancing colors are wisped from treetop to blacktop.
Meanwhile, pumpkin-spice lattes brew, and wafts of cinnamon apple cobbler entice visits to neighborhood bakeries… Visions of Halloween treats and Thanksgiving festivities are starting to make their presence known.
Hold on to your jack-o-lantern!
It’s also time for the annual ritual of autumn raking.
On the surface, the job sounds simple enough… grab a rake and pull all the leaves into a pile. However, danger lurks in those piles! Just as we warned the weekend warriors of summer to heed some helpful safety tips to avoid common injuries, we are now highlighting some important ways to avoid raking injuries this fall.
10 Tips to Avoid Injuries From Autumn Raking:
- Warm Up. Raking is a workout. Every workout is safer if you’ve given your body a brief warm up like walking around the yard or stretching. Raking uses the muscles in your arms, chest, shoulders, back and legs. A simple 10 minute warm up will tell your heart, mind and muscles that it’s time to get moving.
- Avoid twisting. Although Chubby Checker might not agree, twisting is a motion you want to avoid when raking. Shift your weight by using your legs instead of your back. One of the worst raking moves you can make is throwing leaves over your shoulder or to the side. These twisting movements can strain the back and knee muscles.
- Size matters. You’ll be doing repetitive motions so avoid a rake that is too heavy or too short. Select a rake that is long enough so that you can maneuver without bending your back. Likewise, make sure your rake isn’t too heavy for you to handle.
- Hand Protection. Wear gloves to protect the hands from cuts, blisters, and insect (or snake) bites.
- Properly lift. This means bending at the knees instead of the waist, when picking up items from the yard (including yard decorations and bags of leaves).
- Take breaks. Remember, raking is a cardiovascular workout. Taking regular breaks can help assess any pain or discomfort that you may be experiencing.
- Alternate sides. Most people are either right or left dominant. Making a conscious effort to use both sides of your body can help decrease the risk of overuse injuries. For example, rake right-handed for 5 minutes and then switch to rake left-handed for 5 minutes. Alternating in this way helps distribute the strain evenly to both sides of the body.
- Drink enough. To avoid potential dehydration, it’s important to drink liquids during your raking workout.
- Less is more. Carefully consider how much you can safely lift and plan bagging accordingly. It’s better to make a few more trips to the trash than to risk lifting too much weight resulting in an injury or strain.
- Cool down. The football game can wait. Before tossing your rake to the side and relaxing on the couch, make sure to spend a few minutes cooling down. Safely reducing your heart rate while gently stretching your muscles can help reduce the risk of injury.
Remember, raking the yard is an intense workout using many muscles and joints in the body. We hope these tips will help keep you safe.