BeneFIT Physical Therapy how to rake leaves The Best Way To Rake Leaves

As we get into October the nights get longer, the weather turns cooler, and we get bedazzled with an array of colors on the trees.  As Beautiful as the fall foliage looks on the trees it never looks as good on your lawn!  Don’t let a weekend fall clean up tweak anything and prevent you from enjoying the awesome aspects of fall like apple and pumpkin picking, sitting by a fire pit, harvest beverages, and of course Halloween.

To help you get the job done safely so you can enjoy those other fall activities here are some quick tips:

Before you rake leaves:

  • Stay in shape.  Being in better physical fitness will dramatically reduce the effort raking produces.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any pre-existing health conditions as raking leaves can be strenuous and take a physical toll.
  • Get others to help, breaking the job into smaller tasks will make it easier on everyone.
  • Warm up before starting to rake, get your body ready to exercise and work first. Just like going for a workout you should warm up before raking the leaves.
  • Use the right rake for the job.  The handle should be chin height, and your hands should be able to hold the rake 18″ to 24″ apart, too short and you can hurt your back;  too heavy and you can strain your shoulders and neck.
  •  Layer up.  Wear layers of lightweight clothing to accommodate both the changing weather and your body temperature as you rake more.
  • Wear gloves to prevent blisters.
  • Wear shoes/boots with good traction as leaves can be slippery, dry or wet, and could cause a fall.
  • If you can wait until after the majority of leaves come down, decreasing the number of times you will have to rake

When raking leaves:

BeneFIT Physical Therapy how to rake leaves

©Elena Elisseeva|Dreamstime.com

  • Hold the rake handle closer to your body to help maintain a more upright posture while raking.
  • Keep one hand near the top of the rake with the other hand placed low enough on the rake that that elbow would be at ~30-50 degree bend for better leverage. (Ergonomic rakes often have padded handles to reduce strain on the hands and wrists, with special handles that encourage good posture by ensuring that the elbows are bent slightly)
  • Rake to the side, keeping the back straight
  • Bend at the knees with one foot ahead of the other instead of bending at your back.
  • Don’t twist. It’s better to move the legs and pivot the body by shifting your weight instead of planting your feet in a fixed position and raking in several directions from that position.
  • Make short strokes to not overextend muscles
  • Changes sides and alternate hands frequently to balance the work load on your body.
  • Pace yourself and take breaks

When bagging the leaves:

  • Be careful not to overstuff the bags. Remember wet leaves weigh more, so pack fewer leaves in the bags when they’re wet.
  • When moving the bags, make sure to lift with the legs – bend the knees and keep your back straight and stomach tight. (If you’re not sure about the proper lifting mechanics, check out this blog post that breaks it down in greater detail).
  •  If a bag is large and awkward to lift, walk backwards pulling the bag, or use a handcart or dolly to move it.

When your done:

  • Remember to stretch when you are done, all that yard work could create tight sore muscles latter despite your best efforts and a simple cool down stretch can go a long way to prevent that.
  • Drink up!  In the cooler weather of the fall we often forget to drink as much water as we would in the spring or summer.  Make sure to replenish the fluid you lost while taking care of your yard to prevent soreness, tight muscles, or cramping.

Following some of these simple steps will help you get the yard cleaned up, looking good, decrease your chance of injury, allow you to enjoy the fall with all of those beautiful colors…..that is, until the wind blows your neighbors leaves into your tranquil space.