Written by Leslie Yager
With leaves starting to drop from trees, we all know what task lies ahead.
And while the drone of leaf blowers in the neighborhood can feel like a stubborn headache you don't become aware of until it stops, many people relish in the simple pleasure of raking their own leaves.
Beyond the obvious benefit of preventing noise and air pollution, there is the added value of fresh air and exercise.
And, whether you're filling the compost bin with leaves or raking them to the curb for pickup, there's the satisfaction of getting the job done.
You may even get the whole family in on the project, for added togetherness and teachable moments about work-ethic. (I'm only half-kidding).
Still it seems that every fall we hear of someone throwing their back out, or worse, from over-exertion.
The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) warns that "the twisting, turning, bending, and reaching...can cause injury if your body is not prepared."
And though there is some satisfaction in being a bit sore after a day of raking leaves into neat piles or filling yard waste bags to be recycled, you don't want to wind up in pain on the couch all winter. Here are the top three tips from the ACA.
- Do stretching exercises, without bouncing, for a total of 10 to 15 minutes spread over the course of your work. Do knee-to-chest pulls, trunk rotations, and side bends with hands above your head and fingers locked. Take a short walk to stimulate circulation. When finished with the yard work, repeat the stretching exercises.
- Stand as straight as possible, and keep your head up as you rake or mow.
- When it's still warm outside, avoid the heat. If you're a morning person, get the work done before 10:00 a.m. Otherwise, do your chores after 6:00 p.m.
The National Safety Council advises choosing a rake that fits both your size and strength, and to use gloves while raking to prevent blisters.The Council also advises wearing shoes or boots with slip-resistant soles when raking wet leaves. And, last but possibly most important, make sure leaf bags aren’t too heavy, especially when leaves are wet. Bags should be easy to carry to prevent back injuries.
It's nice to stop and smell the roses, but there's nothing like the scent of leaves on a crisp fall afternoon to remind us of New England's unique seasons.