Its that time of the year again in Washington! Now that the sun has finally come out again its time to get back in to the garden. Bending, twisting, pulling, and stooping are a big part of gardening, yet rarely do we think of gardening as a physical activity. “Many people think gardening as an innocuous activity, but it puts the body in positions it hasn’t been in for months-bending, sitting on the ground, stooping, working on all fours,” says Dr. Hancock, DC of Chicago.
To prevent gardening injuries, Dr. Hancock recommends thinking about gardening as you would going to the gym. “To warm up, walk for five to 10 minutes to get your heart rate up While you garden, divide your activity into thirds- (movements affecting the body) below the waist, between the waist and shoulders, and above the shoulders, doing each for 10 to 15 minutes,” he says.
Before and after your gardening activities, Kathi Casey, ERYT, CPI, a health coach and trainer recommends a routine of short stretches for the spine. “Sit tall in a straight chair with your feet on the floor. Inhale deeply as you slowly arch your spine; then exhale slowly as you curl. Avoid straining your neck,” she says.
Last week I had a patient who injured his back while moving a heavy boulder out of his yard. For those bigger yard projects, Debbie Mandel, MA, a fitness and stress management expert and author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman’s 7-Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life, recommends doing some strength training to prepare. “To strengthen upper extremities, she prefers triceps extensions and wrist curls with dumbbells. To strengthen shoulders for overhead movements, use two dumbbells in a military press and shoulder raises. “Remember to hold your abdominals in tightly to support your back and recruit core strength, and to exhale on exertion,” she adds.
All in all, make sure that you are physically prepared to garden this summer. I have seen far too many gardening injuries and would like you to stay strong and healthy this gardening season.
Dr. Michael Weir