In suburbia, one of the greatest pleasures involves “getting down and dirty”. Gardening is a very popular hobby and, fortunately, if you keep a few things in mind, it is something you can enjoy without becoming “backbreaking” work!
Tip 1: Warm Up
Warm up before you start. Gardening is like any other activity and jumping into it when you’re cold causes pulled muscles and sore joints.
Your back, neck, shoulders or legs can all get hurt (sometimes all at the same time). So, spend 5-10 minutes stretching before you even pick up that shovel or rake.
Tip 2: Keep Loads Light
Work smart! Don’t carry too much at one time. If you feel yourself gritting your teeth or holding your breath, you’re working too hard.
If you have to haul around some really heavy or clumsy items, get someone to give you a hand. If you’re lucky, they may stick around and help with the weeds.
When digging, don’t lift huge amounts of dirt with the shovel. You can dig just as deeply and are less likely to get hurt by lifting a smaller amount of dirt each time.
Tip 3: Avoid Reaching Too Far
Keep whatever you are working on, right in front of you. Many injuries happen when gardeners lift and reach too far to their front or to their side.
It’s better to get up and move than it is to twist and strain yourself. Use your legs to do the work instead of your back.
Tip 4: Find the Right Gardening Tool
Make sure you have the proper tools. Manufacturers make spades, forks and other gardening tools in various lengths and sizes to help you avoid straining your back.
If you can’t find the exact right size tool for the job, at least choose lightweight long- handled gardening tools, preferably made of stainless steel to reduce friction.
Tip 5: Hydrate and be Sun Smart
While you are outside weeding, digging and planting, don’t forget to protect yourself from the environment. Drink plenty of water (even if you don’t feel thirsty), wear a hat with a brim to shade your face and use sunscreen on exposed skin. The sun can be very intense and bad sunburns can lead to skin cancer.
Tip 6: Keep Your Spine in a Strong Position
As you’re bending over your flowerbeds enjoying the pleasures of your labor, it may be possible to forget about your back. But gardening can be tough work and sometimes causes misaligned spinal bones and pinched nerves. Try to protect your back since pain can sometimes only bites when significant damage has been done.
Eventually, you remember your spine when problems begin to cause pains in your back, neck, shoulders or legs. Chiropractic can help you with spinal problems that a tough day working out in the yard can cause. See a professional to have your spine checked before the pain of a pinched nerve stops you from enjoying this springtime pleasure.
Benefits from a “Garden-Variety” Workout
If the thought of going to the gym doesn’t exactly make you leap with anticipation, try getting your fitness to flower a little closer to home.
For years, health researchers have talked up the benefits of gardening, showing in study after study how 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to intense backyard work can burn as many calories as aerobics, swimming or bicycling. Researchers have also found that, when it comes to maintaining healthy bones, only weight lifting can match it.
So, next time you can’t summon the motivation to get to the gym, head instead to the backyard. With a little imagination, your compost pile and a shovel become your weights, the rake your rowing machine and the mower your treadmill.