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Fall Exercise – Raking Leaves

Raking leaves gives you a perfect opportunity to get outside, get some fresh air, and get in a workout. Not to mention your yard will look immaculate when you’re done.

Raking leaves is considered a moderate physical activity, similar to a brisk walk. It helps build upper-body strength, as well as core strength, or strength in your back and stomach. As you’re raking, your core is working to stabilize your body while your arms are moving.

Here are some safety tips for you to consider while raking leaves:

Wear layers: It might be cool when you first head out the door, but you’ll work up a sweat after you’ve been raking a while. You can peel off a windbreaker or jacket so you don’t get overheated if you’re wearing a sweatshirt or sweater underneath.

Warm up: As with any physical activity, you should warm up your muscles before you start working them. Raking uses muscles in your arms, chest, shoulders, legs, and upper and lower back – almost all the muscles in your body. Try walking around the yard, doing some circular arm movements, bending forward and backward, and to each side.

Stand and move correctly: Form a wide base with your feet and holding the rake slightly toward the end of the handle with one hand and three-quarters of the way down the handle with the other. Move your whole body (think of a rotating chair) vs. twisting your spine. Do not go farther than your feet will allow and stand as straight as you comfortably can.

Switch sides: People tend to rake on one side of their body, which increases the risk of injury since raking uses the same muscles to do the same movement over and over. To avoid overuse injury, try switching sides every few minutes. Try raking 10 minutes left-handed and another 10 minutes right-handed. This will help balance out the stress and strain to the lower back that happens from pulling off to the side instead of directly in front of you. It also distributes the strain on your arms and shoulders evenly on both sides.

Take it easy: Take your time, especially if you don’t normally do yard work or aren’t very physically active. Don’t try to rake the whole yard at once. Stop and take a break after 10 or 20 minutes. Have some water and do some stretching. The breaks give the muscles you’ve been using repeatedly a chance to relax.

Cool down: When you’re done raking, do some more stretching to help relax tense muscles.