In many places, the autumn weather means that the leaves are falling.
When taking out your rake for your impending fall yard work, keeping a few tips in mind will help you preserve your back. Raking is predominantly considered a chore, but it is also an exercise.
Work the large muscles in your arms and legs as you go through the garden, pulling the leaves towards you and placing them in bags of grass. This provides you with both muscular and cardiovascular exercise.
Approaching this task as an exercise rather than a chore will help you avoid back pain by focusing on form and body mechanics. You should take the following steps before, during and after your raking training:
1. Heat up. While not an Olympic sport, raking requires enough muscle use and joint range of motion to validate a good stretch beforehand.
Before the activity, it is better to do dynamic stretches (involving movement) than static stretches (performed without moving); Dynamic stretching better prepares the muscles and joints for action.
Lateral push-ups with your arms in the air, upper-body rotations, and standing knee-to-chest stretches are good warm-ups for your back, arms, legs, and core.
If you have a large yard to rake in, consider taking a 5-10 minute walk to increase blood flow first.
2. Use the right tool: Your rake must fit your body. If the shaft is too short, you will end up hunched over. Make sure you can comfortably grip the shaft from a vertical position.
There are ergonomic rakes on the market that feature a D-grip style handle in the middle of the rake shaft; This allows for more leverage and less movement when raking.
3. Limit twisting. When most people rake, they tend to twist their bodies to reach the surrounding leaves. A small movement repeated many times can cause pain; When it comes to twisting, low back pain is a common result of such repetition.
Moving onto the sheets will allow some of the load to be placed on the legs rather than the back.
4. Bend correctly. Two sayings are relevant here: Bend at the hips, not the waist; Lift with your legs, not your back. When you reach for the leaves with the rake, you'll want to bend them as little as possible.
Flexion should occur at the hips while the spine remains neutral. Think of your hips as a hinge between your upper and lower body.
When bending down to pick up piles of leaves, bend your knees to squat down and use the power of your legs to lift.
5. To slow down. While an activity that is both a chore and an exercise might not be the most engaging, it's important not to rush to rake. Rushing makes you vulnerable to poor body mechanics.
Try to find things to help slow you down. Save the mop for when you have plenty of time. Take a 10-15 minute break for every hour you're raking. Put on some music. Find a way to do this activity without rushing.
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