It is said that gardening is good exercise, but few of us make the effort to warm up and loosen up the way one would before any other exercise. If there’s a time when that effort is needed, it’s springtime. After a long period of not having exerted oneself in the garden, one needs to ease ones body into the lifting and contortions you are going to demand of it in the garden.
Back pain and knee strain are the most common gardening injuries. Some easy stretching will go a long way toward lessening both of these, the stretches can be done both before and after gardening. But before you stretch make you’re your body is warm by taking a brisk stroll around the garden. You can stretch your back by lying on the floor, pulling your knees into your chest and wrapping your arms around them. Hold that position for a minute, relax and repeat 2 more times. Stretch your shoulders by dropping your head down to the side (ear to shoulder) and gentling pulling down with the opposite hand. Hold and repeat on the other side. Legs will benefit from a runners stretch such as bracing yourself on a counter top while you stretch first one leg behind you and then the other.
Here are some reminders for getting in gardening shape and staying there:
- Pace yourself. Do the hard stuff first, before you’re tired out and more likely to overexert.
- Don’t hunch. If you squat when you weed, keep your back as straight as possible and move along as you weed, don’t reach too far.
- When lifting, always bend from the knees, not the waist, and try to keep your back straight. Use your thigh muscles to do the lifting. Move your feet closer to the object you are lifting and take a wide stance, to balance yourself. Keep the object close to you as you lift it.
- Don’t lift and twist in the same movement.
- Kneel on both knees at the same time to avoid the temptation to twist or strain. Use a knee pad.
- Use tools with comfortable handles. Wrap the grip with an old piece of hose or coat with rubber paint, for gripping comfort. Remember to change hands from time to time.
- When using long handled tools, stand straight and keep your knees relaxed. If you need to twist or pivot, step into the twist to ease tension on the back.
- Get out that wheelbarrow or wagon and use it.