Raking leaves is a chore many people immediately associate with autumn. Even though raking seems like a simple activity, it’s still possible to be injured while removing leaves from the yard. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center advises that pain from outdoor leaf chores can range from strained back muscles to twisted knees. Blisters on the hands and sunburn are other potential side effects.
Many people do not realize that raking is a thorough cardiovascular workout. Individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease or those who have recovered from surgery may not be well enough to rake leaves. Here’s how to make autumn leaf removal more of a breeze when the job is done safely.
• Pay attention when using a leaf blower. Be cautious not to point an operational blower in the direction of people or pets, as debris can be blown about and cause injury.
• Stretch out before raking leaves. Warm up muscles beforehand so they are less likely to cramp. UPMC experts suggest taking a short walk prior to raking to stimulate circulation.
• Use proper raking form. Much like snow shoveling, one should emphasize proper posture when raking, with legs slightly bent and weight distributed evenly. Hold the rake handle close to the body and keep one hand near the top of the rake for better leverage.
• Use the proper gear. A leaf rake fans out like a triangle and comes in various widths. Choose a lightweight material that can be easily maneuvered. A metal rake is for stones and dirt and shouldn’t be used for leaves. To get between bushes, a smaller version of a leaf rake, called a shrub rake, should be used.
• Wear protective gear. When raking or leaf blowing, protect your eyes against debris. You also may want to use a mask to prevent inhalation of leaf mold and other particulates. Gloves can protect hands from blisters.
• Follow manufacturers’ directions. Read the instructions for powered leaf blowers, and never modify the device in an unauthorized way.
• Use a tarp and lift wisely. Rake leaves onto a tarp that can be dragged to a garbage pail or to the curb for municipal pick up. For those who must lift bags of leaves, do so by bending at the knees, not from the waist.
• Wear sunscreen. Protect skin from the sun. Even though temperatures are cooler in the fall, this does not mean the sun’s rays are any less harmful. Also, take breaks to rehydrate frequently.
• Use a secure ladder. When removing leaves from gutters, be sure the ladder is sturdy and secure. Consider having a friend serve as a spotter, holding on to the ladder to offer greater security. Do not overextend to stretch for leaves. If at any time during leaf clean-up you feel sharp or dull, incessant pains, stop working. Listen to your body’s signals and start the task anew the next day or when you feel better.