July 22, 2014
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Seasonal Health

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Safety tips for raking leaves

As the calendar turns from September to October, the leaves turn from green to gold, red, brown, orange. The green tree canopy of summer gives way to a rainbow of autumn colours and many of us wistfully watch the leaves fall to the ground. Others of us just think, "Great, now I have to rake the lawn."

If that blanket of dead leaves awaits you, you'll need not only a rake but also a few safe raking reminders:

Wait for the full fall: Before you reach for your rake, wait for the full fall of leaves. Aside from some spot-clearing on pathways, it's better to plan one big rake job. Quick, small clean-ups may tempt you to take safety shortcuts that could spell trouble in the form of slips, falls, and sore muscles.

Choose your tools wisely: The right rake for you may not be the right rake for someone else. Shop around for one that is a comfortable fit for your height. And while it may be tempting to buy a cheaper, lightweight rake made from plastic, be warned that the lighter the rake, the more energy you will need to use to move and scoop up piles of leaves. Opt for a rake that has a handle with gripping material. Ergonomic rakes are also available, specially designed for comfort and ease of use and to prevent injury.

Dress the part: Wear lightweight clothes that keep you warm enough without trapping sweat you may build up. Shoes should be supportive and comfortable, and should have slip-proof soles in case you come across a patch of wet leaves. Slip on a pair of sturdy gloves featuring grip material to help keep your hands around the rake handle. If you're allergic to mould and mildew, consider wearing a mask to cover your nose and mouth.

Do a pre-rake warm-up: It may not seem like a workout, but you can burn nearly 300 calories during an hour of raking! Walk around a bit before you start so your blood gets flowing. Do a couple of stretches to prevent straining the muscles of your shoulders, neck, and back. Side bends and knee-to-chest lifts help open you up and ready you for all of the raking, bending, and lifting you'll do.

Practice proper raking posture: To keep your neck and back happy, stand upright and rake leaves to the side of you, alternating dominant hand now and then. Bend at the knees - not the waist - when picking up piles of gathered leaves. And avoid twisting to toss leaves. Instead, step to the side so your whole body switches position, not just your shoulders and back.

Take rake breaks: The repetitiveness of raking can become painful after a while. Take a rest every 10 to 15 minutes. Sip on water to stay hydrated and stretch to release tension you may have built up.

Amy Toffelmire


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