As the weather gets nicer a lot of us are looking forward to spending time in the yard or garden. There’s a lot to like about yard work and gardening including the underrated health benefits of low-impact exercise that goes along with it. That said if you’ve been sedentary all winter yard work can be and injury risk, every spring we see folks in our practice who’ve injured themselves with routine chores. So before you start hauling mulch or pallets of flowers and plants that will make your yard and garden the envy of the neighborhood take a quick look at this blog for a few easy ways to make sure you stay healthy, and out of our office, while doing yard work and gardening this year.
- Warm up
Go for a brisk walk or tackle lighter chores first, this will give your body time to warm up and reduce your risk for injury when you start tackling heavier chores.
- Use the right tools
Using the right equipment means less force required to rip out weeds, till your soil or plant bulbs. Plus, you’ll cut your chore time in half! Don’t forget to use your wheelbarrow to move pots, plants and garden waste. Also, wear kneepads or place a foam mat under your knees to alleviate the pressure on those tender joints.
- Protect your skin
Depending on what you’re doing and what the weather is like you’ll want to protect yourself accordingly. Long sleeves and pants can help you avoid scratches. If you’re not wearing long sleeves make sure you wear sunscreen and consider wearing a hat as well. Once it’s hot out make sure you’re hydrated and have water on hand to stay that way.
- Don’t overextend yourself
Before perching on a ladder to prune a branch, make sure you’re on stable ground, or get someone to hold you in position so you don’t topple over. Pay attention to your posture: if you’re lifting heavy objects, remember to use your legs and keep your back straight. If you have to turn, keep objects close to the body and don’t twist your back. While sweeping or raking, move your feet rather than over-reaching with your arms and back. It’s just that simple, doing things in manageable increments drastically reduces your risk for accidents and injuries.
- Make gardening easier
For a lot of people raised garden beds make gardening easier and more enjoyable. By raising the beds you often don’t have to bend and reach as much saving strain on your back and other joints.
- Change it up
Starting to feel sore? Only using one muscle group can lead to stiffness and overuse injuries, move around and change positions every half-hour. Be sure to give both hands some work to do so you avoid repetitive strain injuries. Take frequent breaks, stretch, and get out of the sun if need be.
- Cool down
Once your gardening is done, take a 10-minute walk to help loosen up your muscles and joints. A hot bath or shower will also help your muscles relax.
The moral of the story is that gardening and yard work are exercise and should be treated as such. You wouldn’t break into a full sprint after sitting on the couch and you should allow your body time to warm up and cool down while making sure you’re not over-doing it when you spend time working on your lawn or garden. Follow these tips and you’re far less likely to find your way to our office because of an injury.