Take a little ergonomic zest into your fall cleanup this year. Your body will thank you, as will your yard. The days are growing cooler and shorter. This means summer is on its way out and it’s time to get the yard ready for its annual hibernation. But, raking the leaves, doing the last of the lawn mowing, and putting away the patio furniture all present potential strains on the body.

Fall Cleanup: The Ergonomic Way

Using a rake with good body mechanics is essential to preventing aches and pains. Before even beginning the activity remember to ensure that you are warmed up by moving through a full range of motion for the lower back, legs, and arms and by doing a few jumping jacks, marching in place or by taking a brisk walk beforehand. Once you are warmup, select the right rake for you that has a handle that is long enough to allow you to stand upright while raking, yet is not too long making it difficult to handle. Also, if you are prone to lower back injury, avoid rakes that are too wide as they move more leaves at a time creating more drag and forces acting on your lower back. When raking:
  1. stand upright with the knees bent and the core engaged;
  2. reach with the arms, and
  3. by lunging forward with the legs instead of bending at the back.
Ensure also that you are raking directly in front of you to avoid twisting. Step to the side to move onto a new leaf pile by stepping with the feet, not by twisting the spine. When it comes time to pick up the leaves remember to bend at the hips and knees, not the back. While raking take micro-breaks frequently to catch your breath and to rest tired muscles or consider better yet using a leaf blower or a mulching lawn mower to negate the need to rake at all. When it comes to mowing the lawn, it is important to wear appropriate clothing and especially the right footwear; long sleeved pants and non-slip, closed toe shoes. Never disengage the automatic stop feature (dead-man’s switch) on the mower this is to protect you if you were to slip and fall it would stop as soon as you let go of the handle. Don’t mow when the grass is moist as it may be slippery. Hearing and eye protective wear are also critical equipment to have on for your own protection. Don’t forget to prepare your lawn prior to mowing by removing all rocks and tree branches, which can easily become flying missiles. When putting away lawn furniture watch your body mechanics!Get help when handling table or reclining chairs.Bend at the hips and the knees, not the back, and tighten your core to lift while keeping the object directly in front of you and as close as possible to reduce twisting and forces acting on your spine. Consider moving only one chair at a time to reduce the weight you are moving. Once this is all done remember to pat yourself on the back and treat yourself to your favorite warm drink, you deserve it—I’ll have a pumpkin spiced latte please.