“Spring has finally arrived, now it’s time to get active in your garden!”
Prepared by: Erum Salman
Gardening is a great way to get moving, especially after the long months of hibernation. Winter blues are over, and it is the time to spring into growing flowers to add vibrant colours to your surroundings, growing your own food, or participating in community gardening events. Not only will you be enjoying what Mother Nature has to offer but also the health benefits of being physically active! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, light gardening or yard work for 30 minutes to an hour can burn approximately 165 to 330 calories.1
The Gardener’s Workout
The Canadian Physical activity guidelines advise adults to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity of aerobic physical activity per week in bouts of no less than 10 minutes.2 Gardening may not feel like exercise, but it involves functional movements where these full body movements include reaching, bending, lifting, stretching, twisting, kneeling, and squatting. Gardening is an excellent form of exercise for the use of motor skills, mobility, improving strength, endurance, flexibility, and for some a great way to relieve stress. For an hour of gardening you achieve the goals of physical activity: strength (lifting bales of peat moss, or soil), endurance (raking and digging), and flexibility (weeding).3
Even though gardening is a relatively safe form of exercise, it is still very important to take precautions to avoid chances of injury. Here are some tips to keep you safe and healthy while doing so:
- Always start off by warming up the body – perform continuous movements that you will be doing while gardening, or take a walk around your neighborhood in order to increase circulation to your muscles and the joints
- Drink plenty of liquids – (avoid alcohol and sugary drinks) to keep you well hydrated
- Use sun protection and avoid the midday blaze – Applying broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 to any exposed skin, and wearing a hat and sunglasses can provide extra protection. Try to get in your garden either early morning or later in the day to avoid the blazing heat.
- Know your body – If you have been inactive for the past few months, start off slowly in the garden and then gradually increase the time and intensity to avoid aches and pains!
- Keep your cool in hot weather – Take often breaks and rest in shaded areas to allow your body’s thermostat to recover. Stop working if you experience high body temperature, nausea, and confusion, breathlessness, or muscle soreness.4
- Be nice to your knees – Reduce the strain on your knees by having one knee on the ground, or wearing knee pads to provide cushioning on hard ground. Remember to change your position if it gets uncomfortable and keep your back straight while you kneel. If you are using a chair or stool, place it close to the area you are working and use long handled tools to avoid straining the back and upper body.
- No tooling around – With stand up tools such as rakes and shovels, use one which allows you to keep your back straight while you work. If you need to use smaller hand tools make sure you keep your hand in line with your wrist for a strong grip. Having a bent wrist reduces performance and invites injuries. Use tools with good grip or ergonomic handles. Also, using a smaller shovel can reduce the temptation to pick up heavy loads of soil!
- Wear protective gear – For lawn work while using power tools make sure to wear personal protection such as glasses, ear plugs, and gloves to avoid direct contact with the vibrations from the tools. Wear your protective equipment at all times to avoid cuts, scrapes, blisters, broken glass, toxic chemicals, and irritants.
- Rotate tasks – Avoid over-use injuries by doing different activities throughout the day, to reduce strain on major muscle groups
- Beware of bees – Colorful flowers in the garden attract stinging insects such as bees and wasps. Avoid perfume, scented soaps, and brightly colored clothing while working in the garden.
Remember your posture! Always work in a space that allows for a comfortable posture to avoid strains and sprains. Here are a few things to keep in mind while performing common gardening movements:
- While lifting, tighten your core muscles to protect your back and improve your balance;
- Lift with your knees bent while keeping your back straight;
- Carry your supplies in front of you and close to your body to avoid straining the back; and
- Do not lift one heavy load- rather make a few trips back and forth carrying lighter loads to prevent back aches, or use a wheelbarrow to transport supplies.
- Keep tools within a close reach or use an extended handle to reduce the reach;
- Avoid continuous overhead reaching, and reaching behind the body – this can cause injuries to the neck, shoulders or the back; and
- If you are reaching too far while raking, consider using an ergonomic rake to reduce strain on your back.
- Do not bend from the back and never keep the back rounded (always keep the back in a neutral position). Squat down or kneel on a kneeling pad to prevent back injuries;
- Squat or sit on the ground to trowel rather than bending over; and
- Avoid twisting and bending at the same time- twisting decreases the stability of the back- if you need to change direction while standing, point your feet in the direction you want to go and turn your whole body
If you have any questions, our therapists here at Elite Physio will be happy to assist you ☺
Elite Physio “Making a difference in your Health & Wellness”
- Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/physical_activity/index.html?s_cid=govD_dnpao_006
- Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, (n.d) Retrieved April 7, 2015 from http://www.csep.ca/CMFiles/Guidelines/CSEP_PAGuidelines_adults_en.pdf
- COMMUNITY GARDENS: BEING ACTIVE WITH YOUR NEIGHBOURS. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2015, from http://www.healthyalberta.com/690.htm
- Gardening Health and Safety Tips (2014, April 22). Retrieved April 7, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/family/gardening/
Prepared by: Erum Salman, student enrolled in:
- Exercise Science and Health Promotion Program, 2015.