Move more: The right way to garden

2013-10 GardeningPhysical Therapy Month is on the downward slope, but physical activity around our house is picking up. Today we are going to talk about Gardening, and the toil it can take on our bodies.

When a clear, sunshiny day appears, it’s time to compress a month’s work in the garden into a weekend. This puts quite a strain on our muscles and joints, intensified by the fact that these are tasks we do not normally do. Shoulder, neck, back and knees are prime targets for the stresses and strains of raking, weeding, and mulching, in preparing the garden for winter.

Here are some tips to ease the consequences:

  1. Don’t jump right in. Warm up by walking around your garden, assessing the job before you begin. Gently stretch your back (side-to-side, forward and back), shoulders (roll forward and back) and your neck (slowly side-to-side).
  2. Be aware of what your body is telling you. The rush of adrenalin from your activity might be hiding a little twinge here or there that is your warning to switch to a different task, or take a rest. Break up large jobs into shorter tasks.
  3. Use tools wisely. Don’t lift and carry when you can roll with a wheelbarrow. Try to not over-reach by using tools with long enough handles to do the job. And avoid repeated bending by using a long handled rack to pick up that pile of leaves.
  4. Use a kneeling pad for “up-close” weeding. While nothing beats getting down and dirty, standing and using a hoe can relieve strain on your back, hips, and knees.
  5.  Be aware of your body mechanics, and change positions frequently. We want to avoid that “I wish I hadn’t done that” moment that comes when we twist and lift just the wrong way. These happen more frequently when we’re tired.
  6. Cool down. Don’t end your gardening session by plopping into a comfy chair for a few hours of watching football; a short walk and a hot shower and some gentle stretching will help prevent next day soreness.

If that “next day pain” doesn’t go away, check with your Physical Therapist for advice on exercises and activities you should try to safely get ready for the next gardening weekend.

As the rains begin, you can feel good knowing your garden is ready for the winter, and you can spend some quality time planning for the Spring.

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