It’s that time of year and you can’t avoid the carpet of leaves that covers our paths, gardens and walks. Many of the areas of fallen leaves can look beautiful and are an enjoyable part of this season. But inevitably they may need to be dealt with or cleared.
Over recent weeks on my travels in and around the very leafy suburb of Chandlers Ford, I’ve seen people mid leaf clearing. On more than one occasion my natural physio thought process has screamed inside my head ‘caution – injury risk’!!
With the weekend upon us, I thought it may be wise to share some tips on how to protect your body and minimise any risk of picking up an injury if you’re planning on taking part in leaf clearing this weekend.
Tackle it in short bursts.
Don’t go out and try and clear large areas all in one go, Set a time limit, clear what you can and then go and do another activity for a while to take a break. Then return to it and do another short burst. Keep on top of the job over the autumn so you’re not clearing such a huge amount in one go. Picking up leaves can involve a lot of bending forwards – this is usually fine if done in short bursts, but if you spend the whole day in this position (or any position in fact!), that’s when your body can start to complain.
Share the task if you can, get the kids or grandchildren involved to get the job done quicker and share the physical burden.
Use the right tools.
A rake or broom is probably the simplest way or clearing leaves, moving the leaves into large piles and then using a shovel to lift into a wheelbarrow or bin for disposal.. Again, this is easier if you can have help to share the load. This technique is OK for small areas but if you have large areas to clear there are lots of other gadgets that can help. Leaf blowers are often seen being used. These can be great if you can blow them into an area like a compost that they won’t need to be moved or picked up. But if you still have to pick them up once they’re piled, you need to take care. Leaf blowers can be light weight but it’s still better to tackle in sort bursts to minimise any injury risk. You can also get lawn vacuums now, that will collect the leaves efficiently.
Think about your posture.
If you do have to physically handle the leaves, it’s good to have in mind how a small child would naturally approach the task. They will instinctively crouch down, using their knees to bend to get close to the ground. As long as you haven’t got hip or knee issues, using the power of the large muscles in your legs to crouch down and collect the leaves will help protect your back.
Listen to your body.
If you start to get a little niggle, your body will be feeling the physical strain of the task you are doing. Take a rest and give your body chance to recover. Don’t ignore pain, it’s a warning sign. Tackle the job again when the pain subsides. If you pick up more of a serious injury that does’t ease, seek professional advice. Gardening is a great form of activity but it can be very physically demanding.
Approach it like you would a sporting activity, ease in gradually, warm up for the task and don’t overdo it. Meanwhile, enjoy this beautiful season!
Getting out in the garden is fantastic exercise, it’ll certainly get you active and moving in the fresh air, which is a fab way of incorporating activity into your life. Then you can sit back and enjoy the outcome of your work (until the wind picks up again!!).