Before you hit the garden read this so you can still move on Monday

Gardening is no longer just the domain of the “retired” or the British and Prince Charles’ of the world! In fact there is a major boom of sorts in gardening. Go visit your local garden centre and on line garden “shops” to see just how much gardening has grown in North America.  The nice thing about gardening is it can be a form of exercise; you can do it all your life and it benefits both the body and mind.

Gardening can also present some ergonomic challenges as well in particular where awkward movements and postures are assumed and held for too long. The two most common of these are holding a bent and twisted posture at the spine and using kneeling postures.

Gardening should not hurt whereby you can barely walk the following day after the activity. Rather there should occur some muscle soreness much like after performing an exercise routine you have not performed in a few weeks. The prevention of muscle and joint soreness and even soft tissue injury is important as in all activities in order that you continue to enjoy and perform the activity.  Here are some Ergonomic and Physiotherapy tips to keep you in good shape this summer and fall;

Having the right tools is key to minimizing the energy required to garden and to remain injury-free. Do not get fooled by tool manufacturers who say their product is “ergonomic” however. Talk to a good service person at your local gardening centre to get proper advice as to what is a well made and well designed tool (hint; bent shovels and rakes are not ergonomic in design but merely a way of getting you to purchase the tool at a higher cost generally).

  • To limit how much raking you have to do to clear up the left over leaves, rake leaves onto a tarp, when full, pull it to desired location.     
  • Spend money on a good garden cart or wheelbarrow for moving tools, plants and soil and other garden materials.
  • Kneeling is an inevitable part of gardening. Buy long handled tools to perform tasks in standing as much as possible. When kneeling kneel onto a soft pad (do not buy knee pads as the elastic which holds the pads up also impacts circulation at the backs of your knees). Avoid kneeling for long periods of time by breaking up tasks in smaller parts
  • Use gloves to provide padding, thin gloves are preferred. Too much padding will reduce grip strength.
  • Choose the proper tool for the task.
  • Telescopic and pistol grip handles require less energy, a curved handle provides more leverage with less wrist stress.
  • Keep tools sharp, a dull blade requires more effort and force.

Tips for staying comfortable while gardening:

  • Start with the small tasks first…this gives you a warm-up before taking on heavier tasks
  • Spread the work out over several days or weeks.
  • All work should be done in the comfort zone (neutral postures) as close to the body as possible.
  • Alternate tasks and positions, sitting and standing positions at 20 minute intervals, bending over for any length of time can become painful to the lower back and legs.
  • Start slowly and take frequent breaks.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink more that you think you need.

Stand up and stretch frequently… in the opposite direction to the posture you were just maintaining while gardening.

And the most important tip of all; enjoy the time outside and seeing the fruits (or veg or flowers)  of your labour.

Any questions? Give any of our Physiotherapists and Ergonomists a call or email as we can all assist you in keeping healthy and fit.

Info@OptimalPerformance.ca or @OPCPhysio.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: