For many of us, gardening in nice weather is so relaxing that we don’t realise the toll it takes on our bodies. After a day of hard work, you might not notice how stiff and sore you are until you roll out of bed the next morning. You need to recover before going back out there to garden again.
In order to avoid stiff and sore muscles, as well as wear out your joints, it’s a good idea to plan and set up your garden ergonomically. Also, make sure you have and use the right tools in order to reduce the strain gardening can have on your body.
We’ve compiled these six gardening tips and tricks to help you stay pain-free and agile all season long.
Gardening Tip #1: Set Goals
We’ve all been there: a totally free weekend we plan to make the most of by completing as many chores as possible. One such chore might be to replant a large section of your garden before your weekend is over, even if you’re sore, bruised or stiff.
Powering through pain and stiffness is a really bad idea because you might make things worse or cause further injury.
It’s best to avoid being in this situation entirely by setting attainable goals based on how you’re feeling and how much you need to accomplish. You’ll be happier in the long run and get more things done because you won’t be tired or hurting.
Gardening Tip #2: Set a Realistic Pace
Gardening isn’t a race. Try to go slow and prepare adequately. Remember to switch tasks frequently so you can avoid repetitive strain injuries. And don’t forget to set a timer if you tend to get lost in your work. At the end of the day, you’ll be really satisfied with how much you were able to accomplish by pacing yourself – and you’ll feel great too!
Gardening Tip #3: Take Breaks
It is essential to take breaks. Anyone who performs one task for a long period of time, such as office workers, drivers, and computer users can benefit from a break. People in these professions are urged to get up from hunched sitting positions every hour for fifteen minutes. The same is true for gardeners. When you’re on your knees, hunched over and working hard, it’s easy to lose track of time. We suggest you set and stick to a timer, so you can give your back a break at regular intervals.
When you rest, it’s vital that you stand, stretch and walk around (or sit if you’ve been standing the entire time). Take the time to drink plenty of fluids and eat a snack to keep your energy levels up. The minutes you spend taking a break will be made up later on when you have the energy to keep gardening. After all, we work harder when we’re feeling good!
Gardening Tip #4: Ergonomics
Repetitive bending and reaching is a nightmare for your back and joints. Just ask your chiropractor or physiotherapist! If you’ll be performing activities requiring some manoeuvering, you’re much better off adopting ergonomic positions (such as?) to prevent injury and stiffness. Not to mention you’re less likely to fall over if you’re bending with your knees and not your back!
A lot of information is available online about the correct way to bend and lift, but you can also ask a professional. Your chiropractor or physiotherapist will be able to teach you the correct way to position your body.
A sound piece of advice to follow is to position yourself close to your task and avoid reaching and stretching.
Gardening Tip #5: Gardening Tools
It is important to use the appropriate tools for your task. For example, if you’re weeding make sure to use a stand-up weeder tool or a hand weeder tool with an ergonomic grip. These tools do most of the hard work for you, and as an added bonus they aerate the soil. In addition, they’re eco friendly and keep your hands clean!
If you kneel often, it’s a smart idea to purchase a foam board, knee pads or a padded kneeler to take the pressure off your knees. If you tend to bend a lot or frequently have to move things around in your garden, consider either raising your garden or planting in pots with rolling or easy to move caddies. Also, long-handled equipment will allow you to avoid bending unnecessarily.
If you experience pain or arthritis in your hands, wrists or elbows, consider working with chopsticks, for example, to open holes for planting. You might find that using lightweight ratchet tools for pruning is much easier and less painful, too. Ratchet tools take much less effort to squeeze and grasp, and increase pressure on the plant you’re trying to prune with no effort from you!
Gardening Tip #6: Gardening Help
When you’ve got a long to-do list and several difficult tasks to accomplish, it’s full steam ahead without stopping to consider whether you’ll need assistance or not.
Be mindful of the amount of effort a chore will take and recognise when you’ll need a friend to accomplish something that can potentially save you from serious injury.
Common types of injuries that occur when lifting or moving objects alone and without the proper equipment are strain injuries of the back and joints, sprains, bruises, cuts and scrapes. The smartest way to go about moving heavy or awkward things is to ask for help. You’ll avoid injuring yourself, or damaging the object you’re attempting to move.
Stretch Listen to your body. Gardening should be fun, not painful or stressful. That’s why taking the time to stretch is so beneficial.
Performing gentle warm-up activities before starting will get your blood flowing and warm up your muscles and joints. You could take a brisk walk or practice some yoga if you’re able. And before the gardening season starts, it’s useful to begin exercising to strengthen weaker areas of the body, such as the back or arms.
This will help prevent injury and strain, so you’ll be pain-free and limber!