Seven Tips to Help Gardeners Weed Out the Soreness
As you begin to get outside into your garden this year, you will
want to check out your tools. And the most important gardening tool
is the human body. Thirty minutes of planting or yard work provides
great health benefits, such as preserving flexibility, increasing
mobility and building strength and endurance. However, gardeners –
especially those who are out of shape or don’t move properly – can
strain muscles in the lower back, shoulders, knees and arms. So one
of the best ways to begin planning your garden is to get in shape!
The Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) notes that because they are
crouching, bending, reaching, and lifting, gardeners need to prepare
their bodies. Whether you’re a master gardener or budding amateur,
the CPA suggests these safety tips:
1. Begin with a warm up – Start slowly, or go for a
five-minute walk to warm up your muscles. Then stretch all major
muscle groups, especially back, neck and fingers.
2. Pace Yourself – Don’t try to do everything at
once. Take breaks throughout your work and do some gentle stretching
to keep limber. Vary tasks to make sure different muscles get used
and one particular muscle group is not overworked.
3: Raking or hoeing – Keep your tools close to your
body and your back straight to reduce strain. Use your arms and
avoid twisting your trunk. Use long-handled tools suited to your
height. If you find you need to bend over or reach too far while
raking, consider using an ergonomic rake to make the job easier and
reduce strain to your back.
4. Weeding or planting – Do not bend from the
waist. Squat or kneel on a kneeling pad. Give your back, legs and
knees a break from stooping and kneeling by using tools with long
handles to help with the weeding. Squat or sit on the ground to
trowel, rather than bending over.
5. Digging or shoveling – Insert the head of the
shovel vertically into the ground and step on the blade. Lift small
amounts at a time and bend at the knees, using your legs not your
back to lift the load. Avoid twisting. Use a wheelbarrow to move big
or heavy loads. Choose a shovel with a weight and handle length that
is appropriate for your size and for the job you are doing. Give
your back a break by using a smaller shovel, reducing the temptation
to lift large amounts of soil. Pace yourself.
6. Lifting or carrying – Know your limits and lift
properly. Bend your knees, not your back, keeping the load close to
your body. Don’t lift items that are too heavy for you. Use a wagon
or wheelbarrow to transport supplies and to move heavy items. A
four-wheeled cart is sturdier and easier to use than a wheelbarrow.
Lift with your knees slightly bent and your back straight. Avoid
twisting or reaching.
7. Pruning or trimming – Get as close to your work
as possible. Don’t stretch beyond your reach or past your stable
footing. Rehearse the movement as a stretch first to test your
ability and positioning. Match the size of the tool handle to the
size of your hand; choose tools that you can hold so that your hand
remains positioned in line with your forearm, in a loose grip. Adapt
them for ease and comfort by padding the handles and wrapping them
with tape to improve your grip.