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The Fall Clean-up Workout


With so many enjoyable aspects of the change in the season, raking leaves and picking up the yard never seem to be acceptable and enjoyable fall tasks. However, there is more to autumn than apple cider, football games, and clean fresh air. Fall clean-up is a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy the crisp fresh air while getting in a great workout at the same time.

Raking leaves for at least 30 minutes is considered moderate physical activity, similar to a brisk walk, according to the NHLABI (National Heart Lung And Blood Institute). It helps build upper and lower-body strength along with core stability throughout your trunk The typical adult will burn calories at a rate of 100-300 per 30 – 45 minutes of activity. Regular moderate physical activity assists in building stronger bones and muscles while assisting in control your weight.

Fall clean-up doesn’t escape the obvious risks of injury because of the repetitive nature in twisting, bending, reaching and lifting. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that over 12,000 Americans were treated for injuries directly related to leaf raking in 2004.

Here are some useful tips that may allow you to complete your chore of fall clean-up in conjunction with good aerobic and safe activity. If you are packing up and preparing to move south for the winter then you can use these tips for raking the sand.

  • Warm-up. Raking and picking-up leaves forces you to use virtually every muscle in the human body. Always begin with some trunk forward and backward bending, arm circles and gentle leg stretching. Walk for a few minutes to promote circulation. 10 minutes of total warm-up should be sufficient.

  • Maintain ‘Good Posture’. Try to keep a wide BoS (Base of Support) while you stand still and move around during raking. Hold the rake near the end with one hand, and about two-thirds down with the other hand. By standing up straight and moving your arms together with proper spacing will place your body in a mechanical adventitious position while pushing and pulling leaves. Thus, making it easier for you to move the pile.

  • Avoid Twisting. Use your legs to shift your weight side-to-side instead both while raking and lifting leaves into bags if needed.

  • Switch sides. To avoid the risks of creating an overuse injury, try switching sides every 5 to 10 minutes. This will equalize the stress and strain to all extremities and the spine as you push, pull and rotate your body.

  • Bend at the Knees. Use large muscle groups to lower your body towards the ground as you reach to pick up the leaves and or leaf bags. Don’t lift with your back.

  • Be Smart. Rake when the leaves are dry. Don’t overfill bags or tarps and use a wheelbarrow to move heavy bags to other areas of the yard if you cannot easily drag them.

  • Wear shoes with skid resistant soles if possible to ensure good footing on uneven ground.

  • Hydrate as needed, take rest breaks every half-hour or so, and stretch any muscles that seem to be tightening up as you rake. Pace yourself and do what you can without over doing it.

  • Cool down. When you're done raking, do some more stretching to help relax tense muscles. You can even take a hot bath. Finally, listen to your body. Soreness is common following typical yard work. But the soreness you feel should go away about 24-48 hours after your workout. If you notice any of the following symptoms, and they don't go away, see your doctor:

    • lightheadedness
    • shortness of breath
    • sudden, severe headache
    • excess sweating that's out of proportion to your level of exertion
    • chest, stomach or any other pain
Remember, the physical demand from moderate physical activity increases for anyone with a history of heart attacks, heart disease, smokers and individuals whom lead a sedentary lifestyle. Consult your family physician prior to engaging in such activity.

If you or someone you know has pain, consult your physician, physical therapist, chiropractor or other healthcare provider. Physical therapists, or PTs, have a unique body of knowledge that promotes optimal health and function through the application of scientific principles to prevent, identify, assess, correct, and alleviate acute or prolonged movement dysfunction.

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