How to safely enjoy your autumn activities

2023/10/02 Home Education and advice

How to safely enjoy your autumn activities
Nick Arcaro Nick Arcaro Athletic Therapist

The fall season has slowly settled in for many of us as we move into September.  Certain routines such as heading back to school for children and returning to a regular work schedule for adults become a reality.  At the same time, the fall months are a busy period of the year especially when it comes to outdoor exercise or physical activities done around the house. 

Spending time outdoors in the autumn time can be great exercise and personally satisfying.  It is a wonderful time to be outside doing pleasurable chores around the house, exercising or spending time with the children.  However, it can also be the cause of an unexpected injury. In this article, we will share some of our favorite tips on how to be safe while doing some of your favorite outdoor fall activities. 

Activité automne

Raking leaves 

What we appreciate at this time of year is the beautiful foliage seen as the trees change color and shed their leaves.  What we don’t always appreciate is the physical work it requires to rake all the fallen leaves.  Despite the light weight of the leaves, bending over for prolonged periods of time or bending over repetitively while raking leaves can cause severe back pain.   

Here are some helpful tips from our team of professionals to keep in mind as you rake up all the beautiful leaves that have fallen: 

  • Warm up your muscles by stretching before and after raking.  Stretching your arms and upper trunk as well as your legs and lower back will help prepare the muscles for movements they will perform.  Toe touches, squats and arm circles are all great examples of useful dynamic stretches. 
  • Use the right tools for the job.  Certain rakes and brooms are ergonomically designed to make the raking motions more efficient and less strenuous for your body.  The tools should be as light as possible. 
  • Maintain good posture while raking.  It is important to keep the trunk straight and avoid having a rounded upper back and downward head position.  Do not forget to switch hands and rake from the opposite side to avoid muscle fatigue and stiffness to one side. 
  • Bend your knees, not your back.  By keeping the knees and hips slightly bent, the lower back has less pressure and can keep your body in a balanced position. 
  • Avoid large or heavy loads, especially when the leaves are wet, by making smaller piles of leaves to pick up. 
  • Lift correctly.  Keep your heels on the ground, bend down through the hips and knees while keeping the lower back flat.  To lift, extend the hips and knees and push vertically.  Do not rotate your back with a heavy load in hand while your feet are set.  Most low back injuries occur when the spine is supporting a heavy load and a rotational force is applied at the same time. 

Gardening 

Once most of the vegetables have been harvested, autumn is when it is time to clean the garden and prepare it for next year.  With all the bending, weeding, and sowing, fall gardening can leave you with a pain in the neck, back, or other muscle groups. However, gardening does not necessarily have to result in chronic pain. To avoid an injury, try these tips: 

  • Maintain proper posture while in static positions and keep proper form when carrying out movements.  The spine is happy when it is in a neutral position, that is somewhere between too flat and too curved.  Try not to remain too long in either stressful position.   
  • Take a 5 to 10-minute walk and warm up before beginning to garden.  Take several breaks while gardening to rest and stretch out some tight or fatigued muscles. 
  • Avoid twisting your back and knees when shoveling.  Use your hips and feet to pivot if you need to change directions while digging. 
  • To lift objects, use your legs by bending your hips and knees. Exhale when lifting and inhale when setting down the load. 
  • Use a wheelbarrow to transport heavy bags of soil and plants. 

randonnée

Hiking 

Many people love to go hiking in the months of autumn.  The air is cooler, and the temperature is much more enjoyable than the hot summer months.  At the same time, the hiking trails seem to be more peaceful, and the changing colors of the leaves makes the hike more relaxing.  If you are planning to take a long hike outdoors, you should carry a backpack loaded with snacks, a bottle of water, and first aid supplies.  Keep in mind these tips to benefit from this great fall activity: 

  • Perform some stretching exercises before, during and after your hike to keep muscles and joints as loose as possible. 
  • Wear a backpack that fits.  Also make sure that it is not too heavy and carry only the necessities. 
  • Wear a good pair of shoes to support your feet and ankles.  They should provide ample stability to the feet as well as prevent you from slipping on unsafe terrain. 
  • Hiking poles may be useful to keep your balance while walking on the uneven portions of the trail. 
  • Keep good posture by keeping your head high, back straight, shoulders back, and knees slightly bent while walking. 

Pommes

Apple or pumpkin picking 

Many families plan an outing to go apple or pumpkin picking at this time of the year.  Just like hiking, autumn is ideal for spending time outdoors since it is more comfortable thus making the activities more fun!  While going out apple or pumpkin picking is the perfect way to spend time outdoors with friends or family, there are ways to injure yourself if you are not careful especially when trying to lift a big pumpkin you want to bring home and carve for Halloween or when lifting a full bag of freshly picked apples from the trees.  Before hauling the biggest pumpkin in the patch to your car or lifting a box full of apples, remember these tips: 

  • When lifting heavier objects, the proper technique is to keep your feet planted widely apart, with one foot slightly ahead of the other.  Even if you have help from someone else to lift the object, this technique should always be used. 
  • Bend your ankles, knees, and hips to squat down to pick up heavy objects.  Keep your back straight and shoulders back. 
  • Hold the heavy object close to your body while you lift it as well as when you are carrying it. 

Driving/travelling 

During the autumn season, Thanksgiving Day is a special day.  To visit family and friends, travelling may be required to get together to celebrate this holiday.  Some people travel in cramped cars, trains, buses, and planes to reunite for the long weekend with friends or family. Sitting anywhere in the same position for hours can hurt your back so consider these helpful tips for a pain-free journey: 

  • Use any type of lumbar support.  It can be in the form of a rolled-up towel, a small and thick pillow, or a special-designed cushion for back support. 
  • When driving, make all the necessary adjustments to the driving position before leaving on your trip.   For example, ensure that the steering wheel is set to a comfortable height and adjust your seat as necessary to allow your legs to be in a different position. 
  • Do not forget to make frequent stops when travelling.  On a car trip, stop at rest areas to get out and stretch the body.  When on a plane, or a train, get up and walk as much as possible. 
  • Wear clothing and shoes that are comfortable. Tight clothing can restrict circulation, especially if you remain too long in the seated position.  

Enjoying the autumn months safely 

The months of autumn are always exciting as there are so many activities to do outdoors to keep us busy.  To enjoy the most of this time of the year, we must consider doing them safely so that we do not miss out on the fun because we are in pain or have sustained an injury.  The tips that we have shared in this article will surely help you have a pleasurable time during these autumn months. 

If you do have pain or have sustained an injury and need to consult one of our physiotherapists to get back to the physical activities you enjoy, click on the button below to get in touch with our clinic or to book an appointment online: 

If you prefer to speak to one of our healthcare professionals before booking an appointment, just to be sure that we are the right people to help with your specific needs, click on the button below to schedule a free orientation call: 

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