Spring weather is right around the corner, which means many of us will be planting our gardens soon. Working in the garden is great exercise and can be a very rewarding activity, but we must also consider that it puts increased stress on our bodies. Gardening should be considered a full workout, so without proper body mechanics, preparation, and adequate warm-up, gardeners may experience injury and aggravation of past problems.
Activities such as lifting heavy bags of mulch and dirt, shoveling, raking, and prolonged sustained postures while pulling weeds put stress on unconditioned winter bodies. Therefore, it is important that you warm up your muscles with light stretching before beginning to garden. It is also important to maintain good body mechanics while gardening. Here are some tips to help you work outside using better body mechanics:
- Lift heavy bags of mulch and dirt by keeping your back straight, bending your knees, and keeping the bag close to your body.
- Make sure when digging and lifting you turn your whole body before emptying your shovel.
- Squat or kneel when weeding or planting, changing body positions frequently to avoid repetitive overuse issues.
- When digging dirt, insert your shovel into the soil vertically, and lift small amounts of dirt out at a time.
In order to minimize your risk for straining low back muscles while digging, it is important to remember to stay in alignment with the direction of your shovel, lean your weight rather than trying to muscle with just your arms, and move your whole body instead of simply twisting with your back.
Mowing the lawn can also be hard on your body. The key to making this task easier on your body is using your body weight as leverage. Keep your body upright with a neutral wrist position, and keep your elbows comfortably bent.
Changing positions and tasks every 15-30 minutes will decrease the strain on your body while gardening. Sustained positions are very hard on your joints and can cause fatigue, overuse, and injury. Use gardening aids, such as rolling stools, gardening pads, and long handled tools to avoid undue bending and stooping. Switch hands frequently when pulling weeds, cutting, or pruning. Take frequent breaks and try to alternate using different muscle groups because doing so will help to minimize repetitive stress on your body.
When performed safely, gardening is a wonderful activity that will help you to maintain joint flexibility, strength, and quality of life. If you have questions about how to garden safely, need to resolve an issue or condition your body prior to gardening, consult with the experts at Freedom. Our Physical and Occupational Therapists will help you get in top shape for the activities you enjoy!