Leaf Raking and Fall Cleanup: How to Keep Activity and Stay Safe While Tidying Up

With the beauty of fall colors comes leaf raking and fall cleanup. And just like it’s important to care for and maintain your lawn, it’s vital to do the same for your body. This year, fall cleanup might target some muscles you haven’t used in a while. Before you jump headfirst into your fall cleanup projects, take a few steps to keep things safe. 

The most vital factor in keeping safe while tidying up is ensuring you’re physically ready to clean up. If you’ve struggled with an injury or orthopedic issues in the past, consulting an orthopedic sports medicine specialist to discuss your health history and abilities goes a long way. Plus, it can lay the groundwork for your doctor to assist and advise you as issues may present themselves.

If you are ready to take on fall cleanup, read our four tips below to stay limber and ensure you aren’t sitting out the fall season after a long day of yard cleaning. 

4 Tips for Leaf Raking and Fall Cleanup

1. Make Sure You Properly Warmup

Similar to any physical activity, a proper warm-up for your body is vital for fall cleanup. Warming up doesn’t have to be complicated. The first step is hydration. As you rake, you may begin to sweat. The loss of water and electrolytes may reduce your performance and induce fatigue, which increases your risk for injury. Make sure to hydrate before raking, and continue to hydrate throughout your raking session.

Next, warm up your muscles with some light stretches. The repetitive nature of raking can take a toll on your lower back and shoulders, and long periods of standing can place fatigue on your legs and lower body. That’s why engaging in back, shoulder, and leg stretches can be imperative. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy stretching session. Just 30 seconds of stretching targeting each muscle group should be sufficient to get your blood flowing and loosen tight muscles. Examples of simple stretches include toe touches, arm circles, and pulling your arm against your chest.

2.  Choose the Right Tools

If you have a larger yard, it may be wise to pay attention to the tools you use to rake. A wide metal rake may be more effective than a smaller plastic rake and allows you to complete the job faster. When purchasing a rake, pay attention to the size. A rake at least your shoulder height will make it comfortable for you to hold and use. A properly sized rake can also help you to use the proper raking technique to avoid straining or injuring yourself. 

Also, wear thick, protective work gloves to protect your skin from blisters caused by repetitive motion. You’ll also probably prefer to wear a thick pair of jeans or work pants, and comfortable work boots

3. Use Effective Technique 

Raking is a repetitive motion, so it’s vital to use proper technique to avoid an overuse injury. Grab the rake with both hands in a comfortable position. As you rake, remember to swap hand positions every few minutes. Changing your hand position can help avoid arm strain and help to distribute the pressure on your body overall. 

While raking, stand up as straight as possible to avoid straining your neck and back. If needed, bend your knees slightly to allow for a comfortable stance. Avoid moving or twisting your hips unnecessarily, as this can cause extra strain on your low back

It might be tempting to use large strokes to get the job done as fast as possible, but this can tire you out quickly and make your arms sore. Small strokes will also avoid putting excess strain on your back and shoulders. 

4. Know Your Limits

While raking leaves can help make your yard look well-maintained and put together, it’s not necessary to do. Dead leaves break down naturally in a short time and can make a great mulch and help to keep your lawn soil healthy. And, if you don’t clean up your leaf piles before snow landing, piles of leaves and yard debris can create uneven spots in the yard. An uneven lawn will make the prime target for slips, falls, twisted ankles, and injuries. 

Most homeowners may not struggle with leaf cleanup, but you know your body best. If you have concerns about the bending or repetitive motion necessary for raking, don’t overdo it! Call a professional or enlist family and friends to help clean up if necessary. You’ll save time, money, and risk in the long run. 

If you sustain an injury while raking leaves or doing another fall cleanup project, Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin is here to help! Contact our hardworking staff to schedule an appointment with an expert physical therapist or orthopedic surgeon. We’ll help you to get back on track to enjoy the autumnal beauty and snowy months ahead!