Raking leaves may seem like a tedious - and never-ending - chore in the fall. But it can be a good opportunity to get outside in the fresh air and get a workout while improving the look of your yard.
Experts consider raking leaves moderate physical activity, similar to a brisk walk, helping to build strength in the upper body, back and stomach. A 135-pound person could burn about 240 calories raking leaves for an hour.
Here are some tips to make the task easier on your body:
¢ Wear layers: It might be cool when you first head out the door, but you'll work up a sweat in no time. You can peel off a jacket so you don't get overheated if you're wearing a sweatshirt underneath.
¢ Warm up: Raking uses muscles in the arms, chest, shoulders, legs and upper and lower back. Try walking around the yard, doing some circular arm movements, bending forward and backward, and to each side. Follow with some gentle stretches.
¢ Stand and move correctly: Pay attention to your raking posture. Form a wide base with your feet, and hold the rake slightly toward the end of the handle with one hand and three-quarters of the way down the handle with the other. Be careful not to twist your spine. Instead, move your whole body (think of a rotating chair), not going farther than your feet will allow.
¢ Switch sides: To avoid overuse injury, try switching sides every few minutes. This will help balance out stress and strain to the lower back.
¢ Take it easy: Take your time, especially if you don't normally do yard work or aren't very physically active. Don't try to rake the whole yard at once. Stop and take a break after 10 or 20 minutes. Have some water and do some stretching.
¢ Cool down: When you're done raking, stretch some more to help relax tense muscles. Try taking a warm bath.