By Tara Daye
Nothing looks more inviting than a beautifully landscaped yard and gardens. Humans have a deep connection to nature and nurturing; it is very rewarding and pleasurable to watch something you created grow into something beautiful and strong. The benefits of gardening far outweigh the risks, and we can always learn techniques to further lessen the aches and pains that arise for gardeners.
Gardening gets us moving outdoors, connects us with the earth and nature, enhances our favorite places, and adds visual pleasantries to any location. Working with plants and dirt is also a meditative task to some people, offering a break from technology and daily stressors. Gardening can save us money in the grocery store and ensure that our family is eating fresh, unpackaged, and unprocessed foods. Our hands get stronger; we reduce our stress levels, improve our heart health and sleep much better due to the activity.
Unless we are talking mowers, motorized yard tools and dangerous equipment for which we use safety precautions, gardening is quite a safe activity. Put on your sunscreen, grab your trowel, hat and gloves and off you go! The safety issue now on the table is concerning back and knee health, sore muscles, and lingering aches and pains. This too can be prevented with the proper strategies in place.
Here are a few tips to make your gardening experience even more enjoyable:
1. Be pro-active – Be conscious of the positioning of your back while working outside. Be sure to always bend with a flat back, keeping your shoulders wide and abdominals engaged. Lift any heavy objects with your legs, and if something is a bit too heavy, recruit some help. Avoid any twisting or turning movements through your spine, especially if carrying something heavy. If shoveling or raking be sure to keep your back straight and switch sides to avoid overuse of your muscles in one position.
2. Use the proper tools – having the right tools for the job on hand can save you unnecessary body positioning and struggle.
3. Kneel safely – use a knee pad when down on all fours for some cushioning, keep a straight back, avoid twisting, and keep your tasks close at hand to avoid over-stretching and over-exertion.
4. Change it up – It is a good idea to switch your positioning at least every 20 minutes. Go from bent over or kneeling to a standing activity or simply take a break. Plan out your tasks to allow yourself position changes while still getting your job done in an efficient manner.
5. Drink water – it is very important to drink water regularly. It is even more important to drink more than our normal amount when out in the warm weather and being active. If you are a person that gets lost in the task, set a reminder on your phone so that you don’t forget. Not only is hydration important, but proper water consumption can also help our muscles recover quicker.
6. Take breaks – plan scheduled breaks to allow your body to recoup, grab a drink and a healthy snack for fuel. Allow your body time to counter the activities being preformed.
7. Know your limits – listen to your body; our bodies are very efficient at sending us signals that something is amiss. Know the safe amount of weight that you are able to lift and carry. Be aware if your body starts to tighten and cease activity at any sign of soreness in your back. Tightness during the activity is a pre-curser to lingering muscle pain and cramps.
8. The garden is your gym – We often refer to gardening as exercise. We do not, however treat gardening like exercise where we take the time to do a proper warm-up, are ever-conscious of our form, and diligently perform a full-body stretch routine afterwards; but we should! Perform some light body-weight moves to better prepare your body that mimic your gardening tasks such as squatting, bending at the hips, pushing and pulling. When you are all done, take the time to stretch your entire body. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds if not longer or repeat the stretch.
Next time you are working around your yard, try to be aware of your activity, form and safety concerns. Nothing feels better than putting in a hard days’ work beautifying your property. It feels even more satisfying completing that hard work to the tune of a happy body!