June is a time of year where the flowers are starting to bloom and many of us are spending time outdoors enjoying time outdoors with family, friends, and doing the things we love – our hobbies. For many of us, gardening is an integral part of our day in the spring and summer months. According to the national gardening association, 35% of all households in America are growing food at home or in a community garden.
Benefits of Gardening
An article published by CNN points out that gardening is beneficial to our mental health and brain health, serving as stress relief. As a form of low-impact exercise, gardening also has many physical benefits. Digging, planting, weeding all require strength and stretching. The biggest advantage of gardening as a form of exercise is that it’s something that most people enjoy and would likely continue to do.
Just like any physical activity, individuals can be vulnerable to injury during gardening. Proper exercise, stretching and strengthening can help prevent injuries while doing the things we love.
In talking with Margaret Rozas, our resident physical therapist at Therapy Center of Carencro, she suggests ways we can protect areas such as our shoulders, back, neck and knees. Margaret recommends the following tips:
- Get on your hands and knees to pull weeds and do not bend from your waist. This will ease lower back strain.
- When using a wheelbarrow, bend your knees and be sure to use your legs when lifting.
- If you are transplanting potted flowers, use a table or a truck tailgate.
- Use a rolling garden stool to have great mobility to garden while seated.
In addition to our tips, the American Physical therapy Association has these suggestions.
- Warm up before you garden. A 10 minute brisk walk and stretches for the spine and limbs are good ways to warm up.
- Change positions frequently to avoid stiffness or cramping.
- Be aware of how your body feels as you work in your garden. If a part of your body starts to ache, take a break, stretch that body part in the opposite direction it was in, or switch to a different gardening activity. For example, if you’ve been leaning forward for more than a few minutes, and your back starts to ache, slowly stand up, and gently lean backwards a few times.
- If kneeling on both knees causes discomfort in your back, try kneeling on one and keep the other foot on the ground. Use knee pads or a gardening pad when kneeling.
- If kneeling or leaning down to the ground causes significant pain in your back or knees, consider using elevated planters to do your gardening.
- Use good body mechanics when you pick something up or pull on something, such as a weed. Bend your knees, tighten your abdominals, and keep your back straight as you lift or pull things. Avoid twisting your spine or knees when moving things to the side; instead, move your feet or pivot on your toes to turn your full body as one unit.
- Avoid bending your wrist upwards when pulling things or using gardening tools. Instead, keep your wrist straight and use your shoulder muscles to pull and lift.
- End your gardening session with some gentle backward bending of your low back, a short walk and light stretching, similar to stretches done before starting.
We hope you keep these tips in mind the next time you are out in the yard. Don’t forget to also hydrate in the sweltering heat and take breaks as needed to prevent dehydration.