At this time of year, many homeowners will be getting their exercise by raking leaves.  Raking is a physical activity that can help individuals stay active, but raking is often accompanied by the strains and pains associated with repetitive motions.    Fortunately, this can be prevented by safe practices and good body mechanics.

Most important is to alternate sides so you don’t over-use all the joints and muscles.  It will feel funny at first because you probably prefer raking to one side, but it can be done and will make a big difference!

Another small thing is to break it up into small segments.  You don’t have to get it all done in one day!  Split the job into 30 minute segments.

When you are raking, hold the rake handle close to your body – don’t stretch too far out with it.  Use your legs and make it into a lunge exercise – DON’T TWIST THE BACK! Reach out and pull back   Avoid the tendency to plant the feet and rake in several different directions from that position.  Instead, place one foot ahead of the other and shift forward and backward as you pull.

The other troublesome part of raking is the bagging of the leaves.  This usually includes frequent bending and lifting of awkward loads.  Keep the loads manageable.  Use your legs to do the lifting and don’t twist.  Don’t overreach to get those last few leaves.  When lifting the bags of leaves, tense your belly muscles to give your back extra support and keep the bag close to the body while you bend your knees, keep your back straight and your head looking up.

After the job, do the backbends preventatively and maybe even rest on your stomach on the floor for a few minutes.  If you have sore leg muscles the next day, be happy.  That means your legs got a good workout, but you didn’t strain and injure your back!!!  If you do strain your back, do the standing back stretch for a few days.

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