Gardening Is Not For Pansies: Tools and Techniques to Keep Your Body Healthy
As the days get warmer, those who enjoy gardening are going outside. Whether gardening includes flowers, vegetables or a beautifully manicured lawn and landscape, it is a favorite pastime for many.
Know that gardening is physical.
Gardening is a physical activity, and like any activity, you must properly train to strengthen your muscles. Perform an aerobic activity three to five times a week to strengthen your large muscles, heart and lungs. As you garden this season, gradually increase activity time outside to build your stamina.
Utilize good ergonomic form.
As with any activity, good technique helps prevent injuries that can occur from using poor posture and body mechanics, lifting excessively heavy items, twisting the spine and/or overreaching. Here are a few tips to keep you safe:
Use good posture. Keep the spine in a straight line. Hold your head up and gently contract your belly button toward your lower spine. Your head should be aligned over your shoulders, hips and ankles.
While raking, incorporate an imaginary straight line between your head and hips by holding your head up, gently contracting your abdominals and stepping into a small lunge.
While weeding, sit on a small stool or kneel with one arm on the ground or your thigh, hold your head up and back in alignment with your hips. Bend from your hips, not your back, and always have work straight in front and as close as possible. Do not bend your neck to look down - use your eyes instead.
Gardening requires repetitive bending while raking, digging, aerating, shoveling, weeding, mulching and planting. If you repeatedly bend any material, it will eventually weaken and break. To prevent weakening or damaging ligaments, muscles and connective tissues, switch up activities and avoid repetitive bending in the same position. Use long handled tools to maintain an upright posture. Switch arms to avoid strain on one side. Allow break time to do stretches, change to an upright activity, go for a walk or even lay flat in the sun to relieve stress on your joints, tissues and spine.
The human body is an extremely sophisticated and complex machine. Pain is its alarm system. Pain nerves fire because there is damage, and it is important to never work through pain, as it will magnify the injury and increase its likelihood of becoming chronic. Wait until your pain subsides or ask others for help.
Use these tips to have fun, stay healthy and enjoy the beautiful rewards that gardening offers.