Flexible Fitness: Tips For A Safe Gardening Workout

Gardening and yard work have many benefits. In addition to providing stress relief and an outlet for creativity, gardening and yard work are excellent activities to get us moving.

In fact, in the Centers for Disease Controls 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, gardening is a suggested form of moderate-to-vigorous activity.

Anyone who has lifted and carried 40-pound bags of mulch, stretched into hard-to-reach places to do some weeding or pushed a lawnmower around the yard understands that gardening is a workout. But, just like any other form of exercise and physical activity, there are risks of injury.

If done improperly, gardening and yard work can lead to muscle and joint pain and repetitive strain injuries. Here are some basic body-mechanics tips to help prevent injuries and keep you gardening safely.

Maintain the natural curves of the spine as you work. The neck and low back should have a slight curve, hollow to the back. The mid-back should have a slight curve, hollow to the front. In this neutral alignment, the spine is in the best position to absorb shock, maintain balance and allow for optimal range of motion as you work.

Keep objects and work surfaces close to your body. This will prevent you from over-reaching and keep your spine in a balanced position. Work at waist height with elbows bent and arms at your sides whenever possible. Bend knees and squat or kneel to get to ground level for weeding and planting. If this is not possible, consider sitting on a garden stool or bench.

Yardwork that requires looking up and reaching above shoulder height, such as when trimming branches, puts considerable strain on the neck. Consider using a ladder or step stool, if safe, to bring the work closer within reach. Use tools with long handles to avoid improper bending and reaching altogether, or garden in raised beds if possible.

Avoid twisting the back. Turn by pivoting the feet, and keep hips, shoulders and feet moving in the same direction as when mowing around a tree or shrub. While pushing a lawnmower or wheelbarrow, keep the back long and arms close to the sides of the body with hands near hips. Likewise, when working in place, as when potting plants or pruning, make sure hips, shoulders and feet are facing the object you are working with. Keeping everything within arms reach will also help to avoid twisting the back.

Use big muscles for lifting and carrying, like those in the hips, legs and upper arms. When preparing to lift, think of the stance a football player takes in the line up: feet wide apart, tight stomach muscles, bend at the hips and not the back, chest stays higher than hips. Stick your bottom out to prevent the low back from rounding. Keep the load as close to the body as possible. Carry heavier items like terracotta pots with both arms rather than gripping with the hands and fingers to avoid a prolonged tight grasp. Better yet, use a wheelbarrow to avoid prolonged carrying.

Take frequent rest breaks. Stop every 30 minutes and evaluate your progress, have a drink of water, or just breathe and listen to the sounds of nature. Alternate periods of heavy work with periods of light work or rest. Avoid staying in one position for a long period of time. Switch sides periodically when raking, sweeping or using the shovel.

Break down a large activity, such as planting a vegetable garden, into smaller parts. Plan ahead and pace your activity, spreading it out over a few days or even weeks, to avoid cramming everything into the weekend and paying for it on Monday.

Above all, know your limitations and get help when needed. They say in health care that the caregiver needs to take care of themselves in order to provide the best care. This rule applies to gardening as well. When the gardener takes care of himself, the garden will flourish.

Elizabeth Doherty is a graduate of San Jose State University with a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy. She is an Occupational Therapist at Spaulding Outpatient Centers in Framingham, Mass., and Medford, Mass., and works with patients with neurological and orthopedic conditions.

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  1. Reply

    Is There An Online Site That Gives Free Workout Tips? I’m looking for a site that gives free workout tips and tips on getting abs. I don’t need a so-called “quick trick” that will supposedly get me a six-pack in 2 days. I just want tips on how to work out and what to eat to get in shape.

    1. Reply

      If you want to stay in shape, you need to adopt healthy eating habits and make exercise a part of your daily life.

      How to start?

      Choose exercises you enjoy according to your fitness level. Aerobics exercises move the muscles fairly continuously and strengthen the heart and lungs. Examples of such activities are brisk walking, jogging, aerobic dancing, swimming, badminton, cycling and football.

      If you have not exercised for a long time or just started, start slowly and increase gradually over a period of 3 to 6 weeks.

      For those who are above 35 years old, overweight, or have medical problems, you need to check with a medical doctor before you embark on an exercise programme.

      Frequency or How often?

      Exercise for at least 20 minutes, 3 times a week or more

      Intensity and duration?

      Do exercise until you perspire and breathe deeply without getting breathless. You should be able to talk or whistle while exercising.

      Do warm up and stretch for at least 5 minutes before exercise. Also not to forget to cool down and stretch after exercise.

  2. Reply

    Can You Give Me Some Workout Tips On Buns? I have a big butt and I don’t know how to lose the waight. Can someone help me out? Can you name some workout tips that might work for me?

    1. Reply

      Squats….work a treat, trust me!

  3. Reply

    Allover Workout Tips For 17 Year Old Female? I want to flatten my stomach and tone up my arms. Does anyone have any good tips or links to simple workout routines?

    1. Reply

      Try having fun while doing a workout, and incorporate both toning and cardio. watch tv or listen to music while doing sit ups or push ups. or just find random things around your house that are heavish for you and lift while watching tv or smoething. dance, or find workout videos on youtube. it helps:) good luck!
      this is one that i tried out…
      also watch what you eat!

  4. Reply

    What Diet/workout Tips Do You Have To Become Thinner, More Lean? I don’t want to gain muscle, I have huge thighs. I am just trying to slim down. What workout/diet tips do you reccomend?

    1. Reply

      Aerobics + diet.

    • XP
    • April 23, 2012

    Can I Have Some Good Workout Tips? Hey could I get some good workout tips. I’m medium built but i want to be lean and fit. I also want to tone and shape my legs a lot. Please tell me if you have any good tips!

    1. Reply

      Yes,visit the following sites for fitness.You may not need a full-fledged diet right now, but you can still incorporate some slim-down strategies into your daily life.

      Eat breakfast. Studies show that eating breakfast is associated with keeping weight off once you’ve lost it.

      Fill up on low-cal foods. Start every meal with the items on your plate that are lowest in calories. By the time you get to the other foods, you won’t be so hungry, possibly decreasing your total intake.

      Begin with soup. Starting lunch or dinner with a broth-based, vegetable-filled soup will curb hunger so you’ll be less tempted to eat higher-calorie foods.

      Arrive fashionably late. Without as much time near the buffet table at parties, you’ll eat less.

      Divide your lunch. Afternoon snacker? Cut your lunch in half: have part at mealtime and the other half later in the afternoon.

      Swap mustard for mayo. A tablespoon of mayonnaise has 100 calories, compared with 10 calories for a tablespoon of yellow mustard.

      Duration of Exercise
      You may not be exercising long enough. The rule of thumb is cardio for 30 minutes, three times per week. If you really want to reach your goal, try five 45-minute cardio workouts per week. That sounds like a lot of exercise, but remember this is in order to meet your goal, not necessarily maintain it.

  5. Reply

    Any Good Workout Tips For Men? I need workout tips that I can use at home and that works.

    1. Reply

      Eat healthy. consume a little more protein (meat) than usual. Work out helps but working out is about your body fat percentage. Eating healthy is the main thing, then work out. Two strengths when combined, result in that figure your looking for. When you work out don’t do the same routine work out everyday. alternate between 3 days and do different things each of the three days. like Monday do crunches, Tuesday sit ups, Wednesday go for a run. then Thursday go back to crunches. You can do more than one thing a day certainly but don’t do the exact same workout everyday. Your body gets use to it. Mix things up. Eat a healthy breakfast. Eggs, bacon, milk, orange juice. that sort of thing. Just combine eating healthy with work out and you should see results in the first few days.

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