Grow Your Garden Without Aches and Pains

Gardening can be a relaxing way to reduce stress and spend time outdoors. And since it’s physically active, it’s also full of health benefits: One study found that gardening can improve health problems related to obesity, inactivity and even old age. But all those hours pulling weeds, kneeling in dirt and spreading mulch can be physically demanding—especially if you haven’t put on your gardening gloves since last summer. Here’s how to prevent sore muscles or injuries so that you can keep growing your garden all season long:

Warm up. Think of gardening the same way you would any other physical activity. Start with a brisk walk to get your heart rate up and do some stretching in your legs and core. Here are some easy stretches you can do that may help avoid injury. Also, don’t overdo it the first time back to gardening if you haven’t done it in a while – start out small with an hour and slowly increase the time as your body readjusts to the movements.

Protect your elbows. Digging, pruning and weeding can cause elbow pain, so it’s important to stretch your arm muscles afterwards. Here’s how: Bend your hand and wrist toward the inside of your forearm while holding your elbow completely straight. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then repeat three more times. Look into using ergonomic tools while gardening, which could lessen the stress on your forearm and elbow.

Outsmart knee pain. Avoid spending more than 20 minutes at a time kneeling or squatting. Stand up every now and then to take pressure off your knees. Stretch your quads and calves both before and after gardening to avoid soreness.

Give yourself a seat. When you weed, you have to bend down a lot. This can cause back pain as well as knee and hip pain. Sit on a bucket or stool, which will help avoid pressure on all of these areas. Also try to keep your back as straight as possible while grabbing weeds, bending at the hips instead.

Cool down. Do some basic stretching after your gardening activities to prevent soreness. This can also improve your flexibility for the next time around. If you’re feeling any type of pain, be sure to ice your affected areas for 15 to 20 minutes so it doesn’t get worse.

Now that you’re ready to start digging, check out these other blogs that will help you get your garden flourishing:

 

Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture

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