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Summer Gardening

Gardening can be a relaxing and delightful activity for many during the summer season. If you enjoy growing your own fresh veggies, you know now is the time to be working hard in the garden to have a bountiful fall harvest. If flowers are your thing, pruning and pulling weeds are important parts of making your yard beautiful. An added benefit of gardening is that it can be a rewarding part of your exercise routine. Gardening for an hour can burn 200-400 calories a session. That physical component can make you stronger and more flexible. Research shows it can also improve mental health through relaxation and stress-relief. However, it can also cause some lower back pain if your form isn’t at its finest. While gardening is a great activity for mind and body, there are some things you’ll need to keep in mind to avoid injury.

First, always warm-up before you do any physical activity. Stretching your muscles and warming up before any activity can keep your muscles loose and help prevent a strain. After warming-up, set attainable goals. Your garden will be there for you tomorrow, so don’t over exert yourself in one day. Make a plan ahead of time and assess how you feel each hour. If you feel sore, tired or thirsty, give yourself a break. Make sure you have a water bottle at the ready to keep hydration at a healthy level. Since gardening often requires repetitive action, stretching will help keep your muscles loose. The repetitive action can often cause strain, so, try to switch up your tasks to avoid overusing some muscles and under-using others.

Once you’ve formed a plan and stretched, you can begin your work. Since bending and reaching are the most frequent activities when gardening, proper form is of utmost importance. We’ll remind you to lift with your legs, not with your back. When you bend, whether at the knees or the back, a flat, neutral back is the best form to keep. Often, when we are bent over for long periods of time, we round our back and stretch out the muscles and ligaments of the back, which can cause pain and strain. The best way to keep a neutral back when bending is to hinge at your hip joint; avoid rounding your back. This might mean sticking out your rear, which at first might feel unnatural, but will ultimately save you from an aching back after your gardening.

If you find it easier to garden while kneeling, you might find that soft cushions or pads will help ease the pain. You might have trouble going from a kneeling position to a standing one, so consider a kneeler or chair to leverage your weight and arm strength to get you back into a standing position. These pads and kneelers can help reduce the stress on your knees and back. You’ll want to position yourself close to your task, so that you are not over-reaching. Again, plan your work so that you are close to the job for the right amount of time. If you’ve planned far enough in advance, you might consider using raised beds for your gardening. The elevated beds could be easier for you to access without excessive bending and stretching.

Finally, don’t forget to use the right tools. There are great options to help you in the garden to keep you from over-extending your back. Long-handled tools will eliminate the need for bending and stretching, giving you the option to stand for longer periods during your gardening time.  You might even consider using these tools while seated if you need to give your feet, back, and knees a break. If at any point you feel like you need help, ask for it. Take a break. Your garden will wait.

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