Take Care When Raking Leaves

Raking and disposing of leaves is more than a chore. It can be a very demanding exercise. Although exercise is good for you, this workout can be full of repetitive motions.

Raking leaves may seem simple. But it can be physically stressful, even for healthy people. And if you have a history of problems related to the heart, lungs, bones, joints, or spine, get advice from a healthcare provider before you start.

All the bending, reaching, twisting, lifting, and carrying can easily lead to pain due to a pulled or torn muscle. Muscle strains can occur to your shoulders, back, arms, and neck—especially if you don't regularly exercise these areas. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) advises warming up your muscles by stretching. Stretch slowly and gently. Breathe into your stretch to prevent muscle tension. Relax and hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Do not bounce into your stretches. Stretching should not hurt.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, if you have outdoor allergies, don't rake leaves or mow lawns. Always talk with your provider if you have any health questions about raking leaves.

Most raking injuries are related to incorrect technique and overuse of a muscle. Most injuries can be prevented. But if you must do it yourself, follow these tips:

  • Wear gloves.

  • Wear sturdy, slip-resistant shoes.

  • Use a rake that's the correct height (not too short), not too heavy, comfortable, and in good repair.

  • Stand up straight (back straight) with your knees bent slightly. Keep1 foot just in front of the other to evenly distribute your weight. This can prevent unneeded strain on your knees or back.

  • Don't bend at the waist to lift heavy items, such as leaves, bags, or equipment. Instead, bend at the knees and keep your back straight.

  • Switch your arm and leg positions, trading sides every few minutes.

  • Be careful on slippery, wet leaves.

  • Lift only as much as you can comfortably carry.

  • Don’t wrench or twist too severely.

  • Take your time.

  • Consider raking the leaves onto a tarp and having someone help you lift or move it.

  • Divide your work into short segments with breaks between.

  • Cool down when you’re done by stretching as advised.

  • Drink water to stay hydrated.