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Summer has finally come to an end. While you are enjoying the cool crisp air and beautiful colors of the trees, those leaves will fall. To avoid being "stuck" on the couch with a heating pad and a good book after a long day of raking leaves, follow these simple and easy steps by clicking the link below.

  • Stretch: Hey, leaf raking is a form of exercise; you should make sure that your muscles are ready for the work out. You should think especially about stretching the muscles that support the low back and of course, any muscle involved in the actual raking (eg, arms, shoulders). Here are some easy stretches you can do for your low back to prepare for leaf raking. This doesn't have to be an extensive, worthy of a yoga class stretching time. Just take 5 minutes and get your body ready.

  • Posture: Staying hunched over while raking is simply not good for your back. That posture places extra strain on your low back and makes it more likely that you'll end up in the couch-lying, Lifetime-watching scenario. Your spine has natural curves that are there to distribute your weight evenly and make it easier for you to move. For example, your low back (lumbar spine) naturally curves inward. Poor raking posture rounds your low back more than it's used to, potentially leading to pain. You should maintain those spinal curves while raking—but how do you know if you're doing that? It's not like you can stand perfectly straight while trying to make your yard look perfect (or at least better than your neighbors'). Here's one way: If you find yourself thinking, "Whoa, my back!" when you take a break from raking, you're probably not using your spine correctly. If that happens mid-raking, do some more stretches. And then when you go back to raking, try to avoid that hunched over posture. Rake, straighten up. Rake, straighten up. That should be your plan of attack to avoid putting too much strain on your low back. So many people rake with this pattern: rake, rake, rake, rake, rake, rake, rake, rake…look, I went super fast and made a huge pile! Whoa, my back! Rake, straighten up. Rake, straighten up. Slow and steady.

  • Twist: There are leaves all around you, so what's the most efficient way to reach all of them? Well, most rakers go for the stand in one place and twist approach, which isn't bad overall. But if you twist more with your low back—leaving your feet more or less planted—you're relying too much on your spine. Let your feet and hips do some of the work! When raking, you should rotate by moving from your hips and shuffling your feet.

  • Relax: You do not have to do the entire yard in 15 minutes. In fact, you really should make leaf raking a leisurely activity. Rake for 10 to 15 minutes, and then take a break. On your break, make sure you hydrate—with water. (You can save the hot apple cider for after you're done and you're sitting on the porch admiring your handiwork…which yes, will be covered by leaves again by this time tomorrow.) It's important to take raking breaks because such a burst of high-intensity physical activity can lead to injury, especially low back injury.

You can get through fall with a healthy back and a raked yard. If, however, you already have back pain and don't know if you can handle raking, just do what I do: Hire somebody else. That leaves you more time for going to pumpkin patches and corn mazes.

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