Outdoor Exercise: Rake in the Benefits

Let us show you how to make it more than a chore.
Sara Askew Jones / Photography Van Chaplin

Deciduous trees give you many gifts: vibrant green in the spring, welcome shade in the summer, and outrageous color in the fall. All because of leaves, lots of leaves. Yet what's up must come down and, eventually, be raked. Instead of feeling daunted by the impending task, rethink this seasonal yard activity, and make it a positive experience in many ways.

Good Moves
The process of raking and bagging leaves provides a number of physical benefits. Because you use your arms, shoulders, and torso to rake, you get a good upper-body workout.

Picking up and bagging leaves also strengthens your lower body. It's like doing squats at the gym. Always bend at the knees (not at the waist) to avoid straining your back.

Before you begin raking, warm up with light stretching and a walk around the yard; repeat the stretches when you're finished. As you would with any outdoor exercise, drink plenty of fluids, and wear sunscreen.

Help Wanted
Enlist your kids to assist with the raking, and your entire family will benefit from being outside. Allow for play time when performing this fall duty. A pile of leaves begs little feet to jump right in--and sometimes big feet too.

Cool Tools
Rakes come in a variety of styles. Bow rakes are typically used for tough weeds and dense soil. Leaf rakes with long, wide tines work best for fall leaves. For convenience and easy storage, consider purchasing a push-button retractable rake. To maneuver around small areas where plants and shrubs grow, use a narrow shrub rake.

This article is from the October 2005 issue of Southern Living.