If you are like me, you are in the full swing of things on the garden! Weeding, digging, planting, lifting, pruning and mowing.
So here is my GUIDE TO SAFE GARDENING!
The great thing about gardening, is that it offers one of the best workout routines right at your doorstep! Who needs a gym when you have a garden, and it’s more fun than going to the gym! Gardening offers a great amount of load baring activities which is great for joint function, bone health and muscle strength. Not to mention some great aerobic fitness especially when you have to wheel a barrow full of dirt around the yard.
Like going to the gym or playing sport you do need to warm-up for getting into the garden. Some gentle whole body stretches such as quads and lower back rolls, shoulder rolls, and get your hands and wrists moving prior to getting out there. A warm-up is essential prior to any physical activity.
Make sure you place your legs and feet apart to make a stable base of support. Next, stick your bottom out, almost like you’re playing rugby. Then, bring the load underneath you. Now lift, making sure your lift with your legs and not your back!
Weeding, mulching and planting
With these activities you need to make sure that you are close to your desired working area. The best place to be is directly over your working area, if your knees are flexible enough fully bend them. Make sure you hinge through the hips and not your back! Imagine those who work in rice patties, this is one of the best positions to work in. If you can’t achieve this position kneeling on knees is an option, even better if you kneel on one knee and then change to the other in a split squat position. Use a kneeling pad if your knees are sore, this will make gardening much more comfortable.
Make sure you bend your knees, stick your bum out and move into the action with your muscles not your joints. This will make sure that you are well balanced within your body and with using the shovel. Make sure you use the ball of your foot on the shovel and not your arch. Make sure your stance is nice and wide to centre your body mass for balance. Alternate side that you are digging on, this will ensure you minimise the risk of strain patterns in your body!
Pruning above your head
How many times have you heard someone comment on your posture!! With pruning it is no different! Make sure you open your chest, try to keep your shoulder blades down and back, and position yourself close what you’re pruning. Use tools that can help you reach so that you are not straining towards your target, and again have a nice wide stance for balance. A wide stance will help you control tools that have length or that are heavy, such as a hedge trimmer. Don’t spend too long in one position, make sure you change your position frequently to minimise strain through the shoulders and neck.
Raking and sweeping
Now that you have made a mess with the pruning and the hedge trimmer, you need to get the rake and broom out to tidy up!
Make sure you use your whole body, not just your arms and back! Try to make the action free and flowing to reduce muscle stiffness and joint irritation. Make sure you work on both side of the body to even out the muscles that are working!
Now this seems like a very easy gardening task, I know differently now! This can be very hard work on your back especially if you are bending to complete your potting! Try potting on a bench or table, this way you are not bending forward for long periods of time!
Hopefully these tips will get you back out into the garden, and help to minimise the discomfort often felt after a big day out!
Dr Bailey Lang
Osteopath and Exercise Physiologist