Summer is in full swing now and with this warm weather comes continued yard work and gardening that will lead us into the fall season. Most gardening activities such as digging, planting, weeding, raking and push mowing can cause stress and strain on muscles and joints. Though these activities may not seem like much in the moment, consider the length of time and the repetitive motions that take place. With a few simple strategies you can walk away without feeling like you need to crawl to get back inside.
First and foremost, warm up! A brief, brisk walk for about 10 minutes will help prepare your muscles and joints by increasing blood flow to your body offering you more flexibility as you get to work. Remember to switch positions frequently or alternate tasks every 10-20 minutes to give your body a break. For example, if you are doing an activity that has you bending forward stand up and stretch backwards ten times to counteract the effects repetitive bending can have on your spine. If your push mowing your lawn switch to watering the plants after 20 minutes to give your back a rest from the forward leaning.
Posture and positioning are everything. Use a kneeling pad or knee pads on the ground to protect your knees and provide more cushion. Another alternative is to make elevated planters or beds to bring your work to you. Utilize a wheel barrow, tarp or cart whenever possible and remember to lift with your legs and keep your abdominal muscles tight. Remember to avoid twisting your back and your knees and instead move your feet and your whole body as one unit.
Stay hydrated with water. Keep in mind coffee, tea and sugary drinks can act as diuretics and dehydrate you quicker. Although many of us can’t stand the idea of stopping until the job is finished, taking breaks and working in shorter bursts can help ward off the aches and pains that may accompany 2-3 hours of straight activity. Once you’re done for the day finish your body off by doing some gentle stretching of backward bending, reaching your arms up to the sky on your toes and a short walk to cool down. Once inside, be mindful of your posture and avoid surfaces that allow you to slouch and slump and consider a lumbar roll to support your spine after all of that hard work.