With the snow finally melting and the smell of spring in the air, gardeners everywhere are getting ready to reclaim the outdoors. Winter-ravaged gardens are calling to be cleaned up, re-worked and replanted, but it's been a while since you've crouched over your flower beds, pulling weeds and watering plants, and you don't want to overdo it.
Many people head out to their yards and gardens, planning to jump right back into their gardening routine and this is when aches, pain and injury often result. To avoid overworking your body this season, the Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) has some simple tips to help you become a S.M.A.R.T. (Stretch, Move, Add it up, Reduce strain, Talk to a physiotherapist) gardener.
Get the most out of this gardening season by learning some basic gardening stretches that'll keep you limber. Also, check out the CPA's tips and techniques fact sheet to learn about proper movement and tools for gardening. (PDF format requires free Adobe Acrobat Reader)
It's important to stretch your body before (as a warm-up), during (as a break from repetitive movement) and after (as a cool-down) when you garden. Stretching continually will help to relieve tension and strain, keep your muscles flexible, and your joints mobile.
In order to avoid straining your body at any time of the year, the best remedy is to keep mobile. Just because your garden lies dormant in the winter doesn't mean you have to. Find a form of physical activity that you can do for every season. Keep your whole body in motion.
Moving also refers to your literal movements. Proper posture and body mechanics are very important in the avoidance of injury when gardening or doing any physical activity. Remember to use your legs when lifting, move your feet instead of twisting at the waist and tighten your stomach muscles to protect your back.
Add it up
Being active for a minimum of one hour each day helps to maintain mobility. This doesn't mean doing all of your activity at once, it means doing a total of 60 minutes each day. Try planning activities that will get you moving for 10 minute periods throughout your day.
According to the CPA there are two main factors that play a role in reducing strain on the body while gardening. The first is rotating tasks. What this means is you don't do all of your raking, then all of your watering, then all of your weeding, instead you would alternate chores. You will still get all of the work done, but with less stress on your joints and muscles.
The second factor that will help to reduce strain is using ergonomic tools. Make sure your tools have handles that are the appropriate length for you, buy a mat that you can kneel on, and use a potting bench that is at the proper height so you can reduce bending.
Talk to a physiotherapist
Physiotherapists are mobility experts, and they not only treat injuries, but they also teach people how to prevent injury and strain. According to the CPA, a physiotherapist “can work with you to increase your mobility, relieve pain, build strength and improve your balance and cardiovascular function."
"Gardening is an activity for all ages and stages of life," says Judy Cline, physiotherapist based in St. Catharines, Ont. "To enjoy a pain-free gardening season, remember that you need to start gradually, stop frequently and stretch often. Make sure that your tools fit you; that they are sharp and well lubricated. Spread the heavy activities out over several days. Enjoy the physical benefits of gardening while you stop to smell the flowers."
National Physiotherapy Month runs from April 24 to May 24, 2004. For more information on staying injury-free this season, visit CPA's website at www.physiotherapy.ca, where you can find more information on S.M.A.R.T. Gardening.