Rake It In!

I know for many of you raking leaves is a less than popular task at this time of year. However, there are some real benefits to be gained from this job! Raking leaves can burn up to 300 calories an hour and it is actually a full body toning exercise so you can skip going to the gym today!  Think of all of that great fresh air and it can be a fun activity with your children. After all, it is a rite of passage to jump in the leaves isn’t it? As gardeners we know the value of good soil and chopped up leaves are great addition to your compost pile or as mulch in flower beds or the vegetable garden.

Ok, if I haven’t convinced you of what “fun” raking leaves can be at least you want to make sure you do the job correctly. Back strain and body aches can be a real concern so let’s talk about how to rake your leaves properly:

  1. 10 minutes of stretching is a good way to warm your muscles and loosen them up. Since raking uses many different muscle groups it is a good idea to stretch your legs, your arms and your back before you get started.
  2. Make sure you are dressed for the occasion. Wearing layers of clothing will keep your muscles warm and you can always remove a layer if you feel overheated. Wear shoes with good traction particularly if you are working on slopes or the grass is wet.
  3. Before you start raking make sure you know where you want to put the leaves when you are done. You don’t want to rake them more than once, right?
  4. Use a rake that is properly-sized for your height and capabilities. You have to have the right tool to do the job and don’t forget gloves to avoid blisters!
  5. Once you start raking make sure you switch sides often. This helps to avoid overworking one group of muscles. No more than 10 minutes on one side is a good rule of thumb.
  6. Try to avoid twisting motions which can injure your back. Use your legs to switch positions and don’t throw leaves or other debris over your shoulders.
  7. Bend your knees rather than the waist to bag leaves and be careful carrying those bags as they can be very heavy!
  8. Be careful if you need to use a ladder for any reason. Also, watch out for low hanging branches which can poke you in the eye.
  9. Make sure you take regular breaks and drink water to stay hydrated.
  10. Once you’re done make sure you take some time to cool down including some additional stretching. A nice hot bath is also a great way to relax your muscles.

Hopefully, these tips will make raking the leaves just a little easier for you and don’t forget…try to have a little fun if you can!

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