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ARE YOU READY FOR SAFE LEAF RAKING THIS FALL?

It’s another beautiful fall in Ottawa!  The leaves have changed, the air has cooled, and pumpkin spiced latte’s can be found in hand. This seasonal change also brings with it a great deal of yard work and yes, raking!  Although raking might sometimes feel like a bit of a chore, raking provides you a great opportunity to spend time outdoors while also participating in physical activity.

Depending on how many trees you have on your front lawn it can be easy to overdo it with raking and it is important to have proper technique and strategy to prevent injury. Let’s discuss some tips to keep the yard looking tidy this fall while also staying injury free.

TOP TIPS FOR SAFE LEAF RAKING THIS FALL

1. Preparation

  • Is it safe for you to rake leaves?
      • Speak with your family doctor to ensure it is safe for you to rake leaves this fall. Raking can be heavy exercise!
  • Dress Appropriately
      • Footwear – Make sure you have good supportive footwear that will keep you from slipping on those slippery leaves!
      • Layer Up – It might feel chilly when you start, but once you get moving you might need to take off that jacket! Wear breathable clothing to maintain body temperature.
      • Gloves – Gardening gloves can improve grip and protect your hands from blisters and sharp twigs.
  • Hydrate
      • Make sure you drink plenty of water before and during raking. Even in cool weather you can work up quite a sweat! Keep a bottle of water nearby.
  •  Warm-Up
      • Complete a light 5-10 minute walk around the neighbourhood.
      • Take 5 minutes to stretch your legs, back, torso, shoulders, and wrists.
      • Walking through your yard and pick up any loose sticks can be a good final preparation.
  • Select The Right Rake For The Job
      • Make sure you are using a leaf rake. This rake will fan out like a triangle and comes in varying handle lengths
      • Choose a rake which is not too long or too short as this can place unnecessary strain on your shoulders and back. Your rake should feel comfortable while moving up and down while maintaining an upright posture.

2. Body Positioning

  • Keep your feet at shoulder width stance while placing one foot forward. This will promote good balance and stability while raking.
  • When transferring leaves to your green waste bag, lift with your legs and bend through your knees and hips as this will protect your back. Keep your back upright while lifting and avoid awkward twisting motions as this can also lead to injury!
  • Work to have your knees slightly bent and your weight distributed evenly on both feet while raking. Avoid keeping your knees in a locked position.
  • Try not to stay stationary for too long and keep your feet moving as much as you can.
  • Hold the rake close to your body and avoid reaching and bending forward at the waist.
  • Keep one hand at the top of your rake for leverage. Switch hands every few minutes to avoid overuse injuries.
    • If you start with your right hand at the top of the handle, set a timer to remind yourself to switch to your left hand if necessary.

Treat yourself to a break!

Don’t feel that you need to power through and get the job done as fast as possible. Take a moment to have a standing or seated rest. Use this opportunity to drink some water, have a short stretch, or shoot the breeze with your neighbour.

3. Rake Smart

  • Don’t overfill your green waste bags. Lifting a heavy bag which has been overfilled is a good way to injure yourself. Keep the load light and lift through your legs while bending your knees and hips while keeping your back straight.
  • Rake with the wind and use it to help you. Raking into the wind will only blow the leaves back in the direction for which you have collected them!
  • Rake before it rains as wet leaves are heavier than dry leaves.
  • Collect leaves into small piles and bag them immediately. Leaving the leaves in a large pile might result in the leaves blowing and scattering back across your yard.
  • Don’t overdo it! Rather than tackling the whole yard in a single afternoon, divide the job up into sections and complete the task over several days if necessary. Feel free to also rake with a family member or friend to break up the work!
  • If you start to feel sore or fatigued while raking, listen to your body and call it quits for the day. You can start again when feeling rested or even consider hiring help.

Use this time to enjoy being outside and remember
that raking is good for your lawn and good for your health!

Have fun!

References:

  1. Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety website, “Back Injury Prevention – OSH Answers Fact Sheets,” found at https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/inj_prev.html (October 16, 2021)
  2. University of California Berkeley, “Ergonomics Tips For Home Gardening,” found at https://uhs.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/ergonomics_tips_for_gardening_at_home.pdf (October 16, 2021)

Author:
Sam Dick
Kinesiologist 

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