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SAFE GARDENING FOR YOUR BODY

Gardening is a great outdoor activity that can be both meditative as well as physically active. Unfortunately, many avoid gardening since it can aggravate the back, hips and knees. Gardening does not have to be an impossible task, simply follow these tips listed, and gardening can be an enjoyable hobby once again.

GETTING STARTED

Preparation is an important part to keeping your body happy and healthy. Make sure to do the following before doing any gardening.

Have the Proper Tools Ready:

 Do your body a favor and get tools with longer, adjustable handles. This will allow your body to maintain a more neutral position.
 For heavy lifting, use a wheelbarrow so your muscles are able to do less work.
 For kneeling, get knee pads to lessen the impact on the knee joint.

PLAN YOUR GARDEN

Create a more manageable garden: think high, think small. Consider a standing garden that is raised high enough so you don’t have to bend at all. Also, having a smaller garden means less weeding and maintenance which can save the wear and tear of the joints.

WHILE GARDENING

Now that the preparations have been made, it’s time to start gardening! Please keep these tips in mind the entire time you garden.
Learn and Practice Safe Posture: When gardening it is important to try to stay upright as much as possible. Constant bending can create strain in the lower back and can seriously aggravate the muscles and joints of the back.

Perform Proper Lifting Techniques:
1. Keep a wide base of support
2. Squat down bending at the knees and hips only.
3. Maintain a straight back
4. Keeping the load close to your body, slowly lift by straightening your legs
5. When travelling with a load, be sure to keep your back neutral, not twisting to either side.
Alternate Hands and Feet: Share the work equally with right side and left side. This will allow your body to work longer with less strain.

Take Frequent Breaks: Focus on time, not task. Start with taking a break every 15 minutes for the first few days of gardening, if your joints are not irritated then you can increase the time to every 30 minutes.

Stretching is very important to joint and muscle care. Give yourself about 10-15 minutes to warm up your muscles and relax your joints prior to gardening. It is also imperative to stretch during breaks and after gardening as well.

The following are a few stretches that will help maintain a healthy body.

Stretch your Neck

  • Bring your chin down toward your chest to stretch the back of your neck.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, then return to the neutral position.
  • Keep your shoulders stable and tilt your right ear toward your right shoulder, looking straight ahead.
  • Hold the stretch for up to 20 seconds, then tilt your left ear to your left shoulder and hold for another 20 seconds.

Stretch your Shoulders

  • Stand upright and cross one arm across your body
  • Using the opposite arm, pull the elbow of the arm being stretched towards the opposite shoulder
  • Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds

Stretch your Wrists….

  • Hold one arm straight out in front.
  • Use the other hand to bend the wrist and point the fingers towards the floor, applying gentle pressure.
  • Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds.

Stretch your Lower Back… 

  • Begin to lean backward slowly – It may help to maintain your balance if you bend your knees slightly.
  • Gently bend backward with your hands on your hips. As always, do not bend to the point of feeling pain.
  • Hold this position for ten seconds. You should feel a slight stretch in your lower back and/or the front of your hips.
  • Gently return to standing erect. Repeat these stretches 2-3 more times or as needed.

Stretch your Calfs…

  • Stand about three feet from a wall. Place your hands on the wall
  • Put your right foot behind you ensuring your toes are facing forward.
  • Keep your heel on the ground and lean forward with your right knee straight until you feel the stretch.
  • Hold this for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.