For many of us, the chance to finally get out into the garden and start digging, weeding and planting is met with great enthusiasm and gusto. However, we often forget that gardening can be hard work, especially if you’re cleaning up and prepping after a harsh winter.
To avoid your gardening projects coming to a quick halt due to a pulled muscle or thrown back, here are some tips for minimizing injury from Craig Turner, general manager of Pennsylvania-based Mount Nittany Health Fit for Play:
Treat it like a work out and warm up first. The physical exertion involved in gardening can make it equivalent to a vigorous work-out, so warm up first by taking a quick walk and stretching out your torso, arms, neck and shoulders.
Start small. Don’t dive head first into a huge project. Get your body acclimated to gardening by starting with small jobs first, building up to larger projects as the days go by.
Pay attention to your technique. Mind your back by practicing common sense maneuvers, such as bending at the knees and lifting with your legs when pulling weeds or moving heavy objects. Turner also advises kneeling on one knee at a time and keeping one foot on the ground for stability.
Have the right tools. Preventing injury is all about having the right tools and using them accordingly, such as wheelbarrows for moving large objects, pads for your knees, gardening gloves, and protective eyewear when necessary.
Stay hydrated. Water is always the best option. Have plenty on hand.
As with all work outs, don’t overdo it. Turner says to pay close attention to your body. Feel a twinge or tweak? Stop and stretch out that muscle or take it as a sign to switch to a different task that requires different muscle groups. Taking a break is also a good idea.
End with a cool-down. Before you collapse into the deck chair or hammock, take a few minutes to stretch or go for a short walk. This will help prevent muscle soreness from setting in.
Not only is gardening an enriching hobby and a great way to add to your home’s livability and curb appeal, it’s one of the best workouts you can get. By heeding the above advice, you can enjoy the benefits all season long.