For many people, gardening is a pleasurable activity that reaps beautiful blossoms and sometimes a bountiful harvest of fruits and vegetables. Individuals can enjoy gardening for hours as long as they take safety precautions and pay close attention to using good posture.
Here are a few tips to help you get ready for gardening. First, it is important to wear good gardening gloves as they provide protection from sharp gardening tools, bacteria, fertilizers, or pesticides, and help prevent blisters.
As with any other physical activity, warming up prepares the body for gardening, as it can be a vigorous activity that often entails a lot of bending, shoveling, and lifting. Simply walking briskly around the garden for a few minutes, and doing some stretching, squats and arm circles for a few more minutes can warm up the muscles and increase their flexibility. Stiff, rigid muscles increase the risk of injury from poor mechanics. Fortunately, research shows that warming up and stretching at least 15 minutes before engaging in physical activity helps prevent muscle injuries. If you have only a small plot or balcony - consider a warm up of walking on the spot with high knees for 5 minutes, followed by 15-20 squats, arm circles for 3 minutes, torso twists in standing for 3 minutes, and finally wringing a wet towel for 3 minutes to warm up the hands and forearms.
Another important point to remember is to avoid prolonged, repetitive movements such as raking, planting, pruning, digging, and trimming. This may irritate the nerves, muscles, and tendons or even lead to a repetitive strain injury. This is particularly key early in the season when you haven’t been doing these tasks, and also if you have been homebound due to COVID-19 and have been less active.
One useful strategy involves switching tasks often, about every 15 minutes, and taking breaks in between tasks. Similarly, kneeling while gardening, instead of bending, puts less strain on the legs and the back. Kneepads also offer extra support and comfort. Proper posture should be used when lifting heavy plants or pots, and this means engaging the knees and legs instead of the back. Heavy objects should also be held close to the body as this reduces the chances of straining the back. Ensure you exhale during the heavy lifts and avoid holding your breath as you squat, bend and move. Following these types of strategies promote safe and pleasurable gardening.
According to research, gardening is a low-impact exercise that provides sunshine and movement (e.g., pulling weeds, digging holes) and allows people to stay active and healthy. Gardening benefits people of all ages. Older individuals who suffer from chronic pain may tend to avoid other forms of exercise and subsequently become inactive if they don’t work in their gardens. In addition to being a healthy low-impact activity, gardening strengthens the muscles in the hands and keeps them nimble. It’s a particularly wonderful way to engage young children and help them understand life cycles and where our food comes from.
The key to enjoying gardening is to avoid unnecessary injuries, and being well-prepared is the best way to do so. For those that don’t have a plot of land to work, balcony or windowsill gardening has similar mental health benefits. Getting your hands in soil, watching things grow into something beautiful or nourishing is especially important these days. Many garden centres have no-contact pick up or online seed and soil ordering. You can benefit yourself and support local business at the same time.
If you experienced an injury while gardening or you’re suffering from discomfort that is preventing you from gardening at your leisure, consider meeting with a Physical or Occupational Therapist to discuss your management options. The Physical or Occupational Therapists at client company can evaluate your current physical state in order to determine whether factors such as poor posture or improper bending and lifting techniques may be contributing to your pain.
After completing a thorough assessment, the Physical or Occupational Therapist will design a plan that specifically meets your needs and helps prevent future injuries. Speak with one of our well-trained Physical or Occupational Therapists at client company today. Due to COVID-19, many Physical or Occupational Therapy clinics have telehealth appointments that you can access from your own home! Don’t hesitate to reach out - connection and support are particularly important during this time.
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2. van Tulder M, Malmivaara A, Koes B. Repetitive strain injury. Lancet. 2007; 369(9575):1815-22.
3. Park SA, Lee AY, Son KC, Lee, WL, Kim DS. Gardening Intervention for Physical and Psychological Health Benefits in Elderly Women at Community Centers. HortTechnology. 2016; 26(4):474-483.
4. Sin-Ae P, Shoemaker CA, Haub MD. Physical and Psychological Health Conditions of Older Adults Classified as Gardeners or Nongardeners. HortScience. 2009; 44(1):206-210.