Proper gardening boils down to good body mechanics
Being outside in the fresh spring air, enjoying the birds and plants in our gardens is something to look forward to. A truly rewarding type of exercise is gardening. As with any exercise, gardening can be stressful on your body. Through proper body positioning and techniques, you can reduce pain and injury from gardening.
First, as you would with any sport, stretching your muscles in the upper and lower body is important both prior to and after gardening. By staying flexible and limber, it makes gardening tasks easier to handle and light stretching when you are done can prevent stiffness later.
Second, be realistic. As we age, we may not be able to do as much as we used to do. A majoriy of injuries occur from doing too much too quickly. Spread out your tasks throughout the week.
Third, use proper body mechanics. Avoid using your back when lifting. Bend your knees, keep your back straight and use your legs to carry the weight as you hold the object close to your body. When shoveling, dig, lift and turn your whole body before you empty the contents. Avoid lifting, twisting and throwing, especially heavy or wet materials. Refrain from bending forward for long periods of time which puts pressure on your back and knees. Instead, sit on the ground or a stool.
Fourth, take a break. Alternate the use of different muscle groups and minimize repetitive muscle and spine movement. Take a break every 30-60 minutes, drink water and stretch as you decide what needs to be done next.
Fifth, know your boundaries. Most injuries happen when you do one last thing. Stop before you become fatigued, stiff or sore. If there is pain, put ice on it for 15-20 minutes. Depending on the severity, contact your health care provider.
Lastly, use ergonomic garden tools. These tools allow for a safe, productive and injury free gardening experience.