6 tips to turn your autumn chore into an exercise opportunity
While they’re still hanging from trees, autumn leaves are gorgeous.
But once they fall they can cause tripping hazards, especially when they’re wet and slippery.
Some gardening experts discourage removal, saying leaves serve as mulch to protect soil around trees and shrubs, but others maintain that collecting and bagging them promote healthier lawns. Regardless of which side of this argument you support, if you intend to head outdoors to sweep them off your sidewalks or rake them off your grass, plan ahead to prevent injury. And don’t consider the work a chore. Joe Ozanic, a personal trainer at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital Health and Fitness Center in Barrington, Ill., says you can count it toward your exercise goal.
“The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week,” he says. “As long as the increments are at least 10 minutes, they contribute toward that goal.”
Ozanic offers these tips to prevent injury while raking:
Stretch first: Remember that raking leaves is a form of exercise. As with other forms of exercise, it’s important to warm up before you start working your muscles.
Switch sides: An overuse injury can occur if you’re raking from the same side over a long period of time. Switch it up! Try 10 minutes on one side, then 10 minutes on the other.
Don’t overdo it: If you’re overheating, take a break. Drink some water. If you have a large area to rake, break the work into segments. Wear layers so you can remove one if needed.
Avoid straining: Whether you’re raking or bagging, don’t twist at the waist. As much as you can, move your whole body when raking, and be careful when heaving piles of leaves into bags. Remember the weightlifter’s mantra: Lift with your legs, not your back.
Don’t overload: If you intend to bag your leaves, avoid the temptation to overfill. Sure, fewer bags will save you trips to the curb, but excessively heavy bags can be burdensome to lift. Divide the load into several bags or use a wheelbarrow to move your bags if they’re very weighty.
Remember the benefits: Raking leaves is considered a moderate-intensity physical activity. A 150-pound person can burn about 150 calories when raking leaves for 30 minutes, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. So while you’re out there doing your best to prevent injury, remember that you’re also doing something good for your health.
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About the Author
Kathleen Troher, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Good Sheperd Hospital in Barrington. She has more than 20 years of journalism experience, with her primary focus in the newspaper and magazine industry. Kathleen graduated from Columbia College in Chicago, earning her degree in journalism with an emphasis on science writing and broadcasting. She loves to travel with her husband, Ross. They share their home with a sweet Samoyed named Maggie.