Gardening is great exercise but it’s easy to pull a muscle, get dehydrated or put in too much work in a day, particularly in the spring. Many people also forget to use a sun block or lotion while working in the gardens.
In the spring after a winter of less outdoor activity it’s best to start with a few exercises before working in the garden. A few simple stretches will help limber those muscles up. Check with your doctor before starting any type of exercise, including the stretches listed below.
The most common gardening injuries are back strain and knee pain. 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 two more times.
Stretch your shoulders by holding a towel over your head. Bring the towel behind your head, with one hand and lower the other hand to below shoulder height. Hold and gently pull on the towel. Switch sides and repeat.
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.
Also just taking more walks before the gardening season will help loosen muscles.
Here are a few tips for successful gardening with less muscle strain:
- Pace yourself.
- Do the hard labor first, before you’re tired out and more likely to overexert.
- Practice good posture and don’t hunch. If you squat when you weed make sure to keep your back as straight as possible.
- Move along as you weed and 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. This will pull muscles out or create cramping.
- Kneel on both knees at the same time and avoid the temptation to twist or strain.
- Use a kneepad. An old blanket or garden pad will also help.
- Choose tools with comfortable handles. For added protection wrap the grip with an old piece of hose or coat with rubber paint. Changing hands from time to time will help too.
- 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 the wagon or wheelbarrow. It saves time and back strain.
- Keep a barrel or jugs handy for watering. Lifting water buckets outs a strain on the back
- Keep a water bottle handy and if you haven’t been out in the sun a lot keep an eye out for sunstroke.
- Take breaks and don’t work during the hottest part of the day when the UV rays are the most dangerous to your skin
Gardening is fun, but it’s also work, particularly the first week when you are getting the garden in shape. I have found raised beds and container gardening simplifies gardening and are easier on the back.