10 tips for an injury-free fall cleanup

Yard work can also be dangerous. In 2018, more than 300,000 Americans went to the emergency room due to yard and garden equipment injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The air is crisp, pumpkin spice is everywhere and brightly colored leaves are piling up in a hurry.

It’s fall, and in many parts of the United States, dealing with leaves can be one of the least enjoyable tasks of the season. Raking, cutting down plants and shrubs, collecting brush and gathering yard waste can be a very strenuous autumn activity.

“Yes, it’s a chore, but if you think about it, raking really is a physical activity,” says Dr. Rodrigo Caballero, a physical therapist at Aurora Health Care. “It involves continuous bending and lifting and uses many different muscle groups that can put a lot of strain on the back, shoulders, legs and wrists.”

To stay safe while raking and doing yard work this fall, Caballero recommends these 10 cleanup tips:

  1. Do not twist your body while raking. For example:
    • Use your legs to shift your weight rather than your back.
    • Avoid throwing leaves over your shoulder or to the side, which can cause twisting and muscle strains in your back.
  2. Use the right-sized rake for your height and strength.
  3. Warm up with some light stretching for 10 minutes prior to raking.
  4. Wear gloves on your hands to help prevent blisters and cuts.
  5. Wear shoes with good traction to minimize the risk of falling.
  6. Bend at the knees to pick up items, not at the waist.
  7. Switch up your movements to give different muscle groups a break.
  8. If you begin to feel tired, take breaks and slow down your pace.
  9. Like with other exercises and physical activities, drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
  10. When you’re done, stretch to help relieve tension in the muscles.

Following these helpful safety tips can make raking less painful – and help you turn over a new leaf by embracing fall yard work all season long.

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