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Doing outdoor fall chores like raking leaves and cutting back spent flowers is a great way to get some exercise. Getting your legs moving and your heart rate up is great for your health, but of course there’s always a chance of injury. But that doesn’t mean you should say indoors. Follow these precautions to reduce your chances of getting hurt. If something just doesn’t feel right, make an appointment to visit an orthopedic specialist at Coordinated Health.
Muscle pulls and strains are the most common injuries from working outdoors. Activities like digging, pulling weeds, and raking leaves frequently lead to soreness in the lower and upper back, shoulders, and hips. Taking a few minutes to stretch can really make all the difference.
Strengthen and stretch your lower back with this easy routine recommended by Coordinated Health Physical Therapy:
You might be tempted to hold stretches for as long as your body allows, but prolonged stretches can actually pull muscles and cause painful contractions. Instead, hold stretches for 20 seconds at a time and do several rounds. Be sure to target the muscle groups that are specific to the task you are about to perform. Repeat stretches when you’re finished working, too.
Body mechanics are very important in preventing injury when working in the yard. Be aware of your body position when doing tasks like raking, weeding, or lifting. Try to kneel on a pad when weeding or planting. When bending or lifting, always bend from your knees and keep your back straight. When lifting heavier objects, keep them close to your body or use a wheelbarrow for carrying. If something looks too heavy to lift by yourself, don’t chance it–find someone to help out.
Change activities often to avoid repetitive stress to your body. Repetitive stress can lead to injury over a period of time. When doing repetitive activity like raking or digging, switch hands to balance stresses. Try to alternate bending and standing tasks to relieve continuous stress.
Take breaks frequently. Check your heart rate and respiratory rate prior to working and then periodically during activity. When taking a break, wait until your heart rate and respiratory rate return to your starting baseline before going back to work. Also, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Temperatures can fluctuate widely in the fall. Stay out of extreme heat and cold. If temperatures are high, try not to do yard work during the hottest parts of the day; working outside in the morning or evening will reduce chances of overheating. If temperatures are low, try to avoid working in early morning or late evening when the air is coolest. Wear insect repellent if needed and tuck in clothing to reduce your chances of insect or tick bites.
Reference: Orthopedic Institute of Pennsylvania