Every year we look forward to spring and summer and to getting out in our gardens to get our hands dirty. Besides providing a creative outlet and adding to the curb appeal of our properties, gardening is actually an excellent source of exercise. After all, gardening is hard work. With various projects consuming hours and hours of time to complete, a lot of energy and calories can be expended. Exercise benefits would include: an increase in muscular strength and endurance, improved circulation, flexibility, not to mention all that fresh air. But what is the biggest thing that gets in the way of enjoying gardening? One word: pain.
We certainly can relate to that aching low back or neck pain that keeps us from putting in the long hours needed to rake, dig, weed and plant. But there are certain risks people need to understand that put them in greater danger of pain problems that may limit gardening. The most important aspect of gardening that one should be aware of is how long the project is expected to take. It has been surveyed that the average gardening project requires three hours to complete. Most people are not appropriately prepared to undergo three hours of activity when they set out. Think about it. If you planned on going to the gym with the intention of working out for three hours, you would prepare accordingly. You would bring water, you would warm up, and you would take breaks as necessary to avoid straining yourself. The same should be true about gardening. So in keeping with this, here are some tips for gardening to help prevent pain and injury.
1. Plan out the project – draw out diagrams. This will help you to determine the materials necessary for the project. In addition, it will enable you to work from back to front. This is essential for preventing back strain by avoiding unnecessary reaching.
2. Get the right tools for the Job: Using the right tools for different activities can make small work of heavy jobs and prevent you from placing your body in awkward and dangerous positions.
a. Wheelbarrow – Rather than lugging and straining to carry heavy loads, use the wheelbarrow to do the heavy work. Remember to make several light trips rather than one heavy one.
b. Kneeling Pad – the use of the kneeling pad is a simple yet effective way to avoid back stress while planting, raking or weeding and encourages you to get out of that bent over position responsible for so much back and hamstring pain.
c. Sit on something: a gardening seat, trolley or a neat trick is to use an old bucket or plastic planting pot as a gardening stool. This will put less stress on the spinal discs as sitting is more comfortable and will allow for greater stamina.
d. Stretching – Stay tuned to the next blog entry for some simple stretches that you can do before you even start to garden.