Tips for Staying Healthy While Gardening

By: Misty Woltman, PT

This year, more than most, we are all in need of some stress relief, sunshine, and fresh air. Finally, the warmer weather has arrived and we are all eager to get out and enjoy some “normal” activities!! Gardening can be a great stress reliever as well as provide some daily physical activity. It can be easy to overdo it when we feel like you are in a time crunch to get your garden or flowers planted. You want to make this an enjoyable activity as well as a safe one. There are several steps and strategies to decrease your risk of injury during this gardening season.

  • Always ask for help if needed, especially for heavy loads.
  • Equipment: prepare by getting equipment ready and close by – use a cart or wheelbarrow to carry heavy objects or divide into smaller loads. Use appropriately sized tools and keep equipment in a safe place during tasks (avoid stepping on a rake or sharp tool, tripping over a hose that is hiding in the grass). Keep your phone with you for emergency situations.
  • Clothing: wear gloves, protective clothing, shoes, eyewear, and sunscreen to protect you from the sun and decrease the risk of injury or infection (cuts, bug bites, sunburn).
  • Warm up with some light stretching.
  • Take frequent rest breaks, at least every 30 minutes (you can walk around and stretch arms and legs), and avoid heat exhaustion by staying hydrated and avoiding warmest hours of the day.
  • Raking, shoveling, digging: stay close to the area you are working on, move your legs and feet and avoid reaching and twisting. Use your legs, avoid bending at the waist, and keep heavy items close to your body. You can help support your back by tightening your stomach muscles when lifting.
  • Hands: use tools with padded handles, wider handles that fit your hand comfortably, and use a light grip. Try to keep your wrist in a neutral position and alternate hands often.
  • Prolonged positions: use a pad to kneel on (can use an old pillow in a pinch) and/or a small step stool or bench to sit on. Try breaking up tasks so you can change positions frequently.
  • Gardening can include many repetitive motions that can cause not only sore muscles, back and joint pain, but serious tendon or nerve injuries. Listen to your body and rest when needed!

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