How to protect your back while gardening.

July 9, 2013

Summer is finally here. If there was any doubt, recent temperatures in Kelowna (35 C.) are enough to convince me of its arrival. Although sitting in the shade with a good book and a tall lemonade is a great way to get through the hottest part of the day, there are still lots of garden activities that will continue through the summer months.

Gardening—the Perfect Exercise

There is always so much to do in a garden you can get all your requirements for physical exercise in your own back yard. The most important thing when you’re gardening is to vary your activities so you don’t develop repetitive stress injuries in your back, shoulders, elbows or wrists.

Here are some suggestions to make gardening an effective exercise without developing injuries:

  • Change jobs every 10 or 15 minutes. If you are raking, weeding, pruning or planting you are usually in a fixed position. The longer you maintain the same activity the more likely your body is going stiffen up.
  • Buy a kneeling pad so you can be on your knees to weed. If your knees object, then find a small step stool that you can sit on. Once you start weeding extend your arm so you can pull with your whole body rather than from your wrist or elbow. If you change hands and weed with your non-dominant hand you will be exercising your brain as well as your body. Your brain needs variety as much as your body.
  • When using your rake, imagine that you’re dancing with someone. Position your feet a comfortable distance apart and allow your whole torso to rotate as you move with your rake. Try raking from the other side—it may be awkward at first but it will also wake up your brain.
  • When you are pruning use your whole body. Find ways to position yourself so you lengthen as you reach. If you’re pruning something low to the ground, bend at your hips, knees and ankles. As with raking, imagine that you’re dancing so you remember to use your whole body. Try to vary your positions and the levels you’re working and if you’re on a ladder, stop every few minutes and take a break. Your nervous system knows that you’re in a precarious position on a ladder and it will tense up in an effort to keep you from falling. If you get off the ladder from time to time it releases any build-up of tension.

Now go out and have fun as you try some of these suggestions for more effective gardening. You may find that by changing activities you’ll be able to work longer in the garden and enjoy it more.

 I’d love to hear your thoughts  if this inspired you with new ways to garden. Please share the ways you vary your activities in your garden to avoid injury.


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