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Fall is here! And so is a great opportunity to work out in the fresh, crisp air, while raking the multicolored leaves piling up on your front lawn.

Raking leaves is considered to be moderate physical activity, similar to a brisk walk, according to Barbara Ainsworth, an exercise epidemiologist at San Diego State University. It helps build upper-body strength as well as strength in your back and stomach.

As you are raking, your core (or trunk region) is working to stabilize your body while your arms are moving. A 135-pound person, for example, could burn approximately 240 calories raking leaves for one hour.

But beware: many of us are sedentary during the summer months and, for those of you unaccustomed to physical activity and regular exercise, the dynamics of raking can lead to strain and injury to the back, shoulders, and wrists, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Raking uses muscles you don’t typically use or work, so be sure to stretch before and after the task.

Here are other precautions, in addition to stretching, to take into consideration to minimize your risk of sustaining an injury:

1. Avoid twisting your body while raking. Use your legs to shift your weight, rather than twisting your back. Throwing leaves over the shoulder, or to the side, while raking involves twisting movements that can overly strain muscles in the back.
2. Use a proper-sized rake for your height and strength.
3. Wear gloves to help prevent blisters on the hands.
4. Bend at the knees, rather than the waist, to pick up items.
5. Do some form of light exercise for ten minutes, to warm up the muscles, prior to raking.
6. Try to vary your movements, as much as you can, to avoid overuse of muscle groups.
7. Wear shoes with skid-resistant soles to minimize the risk of falling. Sturdy shoes can also reduce the risk of injuries to your feet.
8. Don’t overdo it. Raking is an aerobic activity – you may need to take frequent breaks, or slow your pace, if you are an infrequent exerciser. (It’s better to live with the leaves tomorrow than with a sore back.)
9. As with any form of exercise, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
10. When you are done, gentle muscle stretching can help relieve tension in the muscles. A hot bath can relax muscles.

It is also a good idea to do stretching exercises the next morning to relieve muscle tension. If you have someone willing to give you a massage, that’s an extra beneficial therapy well earned.

A Few Tips for Fall Fitness

Here are a few ways to start making the most of the season. And who knows? This year, you might be in great shape before that New Year’s Eve party rolls around.

Take Advantage of the Weather

Fall can be a treat for the senses; the crisp air, apple picking, pumpkin carving, a gorgeous canopy of fall foliage, and the crunch of leaves underfoot. These months are a great time to exercise outdoors and enjoy cooler temperatures.

“Walking, hiking and cycling are all awesome in the fall,” says Todd Durkin, MS., fitness coach and owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, Calif. Discover park trails and take in some new scenery, whether you are walking, biking, or in-line skating, he suggests.

Be an Active TV Watcher

Many people get geared up for fall premieres of their favorite television shows, says Freytag. “If you’re going to sit down and watch hours of TV, get moving,” she suggests. “Make a date with exercise and TV.” While you watch, you can walk or run in place, do standing lunges, do tricep-dips off the couch, or lift weights. During commercials, you can try to do push-ups or sit-ups. In a one-hour show, you probably have close to twenty minutes worth of commercial interruption.

Integrate Exercise into Your Life

You already know the obvious suggestions. Park farther away from your destination, take stairs instead of elevators, take a walk during your lunch break.

Rejuvenate Yourself

Fall is the time to rejuvenate body, mind and spirit. Get a massage after your run. Learn to meditate. Take an art class. Treat yourself, not just with exercise but with other activities that promote wellness so you can feel good physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Remember the 30-Day Rule

“It takes about four weeks for the body to adapt to lifestyle changes,” says Price. That’s why people who give up on their fitness programs tend to do so within the first 30 days.
So, when the alarm goes off in the morning and it’s darker and colder, don’t roll over and hit the snooze button. Try to stick with a program for a month. After that time period, behavior patterns will have adapted and it will be much easier to stick with it after that.

Strive for the 3 Cs

Freytag calls Commitment, Convenience, and Consistency the “Three Cs,” and says having all three will lead to a successful fitness program.

So Take it easy and enjoy the pleasures of autumn.


This article is adapted from the following sources:

1. http://www.aarp.org/health/fitness/info-02-2009/raking_leaves.html

2. http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=54998

3. http://www.cehs.siu.edu/occupational_health/fact_sheets/autumnhealth.html

4. http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/10-tips-fall-fitness

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