Green Thumbs…and knees…and backs

You may think GARDENING couldn’t possibly be “exercise”. However, your body is bending, twisting, reaching and doing motions you likely haven’t done in a year! Shoulder tendonitis, knee issues and lower back strains are common problems seen with the rigors of gardening.  Save your back and the environment with these helpful tips:

  • Warm up with a light walk around the garden to limber up and reduce the chance of a muscle strain
  • Back bends – place your hands on your hips with your feet shoulder width apart and gently bend backwards at the waist. Hold 2-3 seconds, repeat 5x. If standing is uncomfortable, this can be done laying on your stomach and propped up on your elbows. This gentle back extension will warm up your lumbar discs. This is also a good one to do after gardening or yard work to avoid stiffness.
  • Chest stretch – place hands at shoulder height on either side of a doorframe, your feet staggered. Gently lean through the doorframe feeling a comfortable stretch across your chest.
  • While digging – lean forward with a straight spine, bend at the hips and knees and avoid twisting your back to throw the dirt. Stand up, move your body and turn the shovel to rid of the dirt.
  • While lifting – use a wide stance and bend at the hips and knees, keeping your spine long. Keep objects close to your body to avoid reaching and straining your shoulders and back.
  • Use a bench or table for smaller projects and knee pads or a cushion when kneeling.

It’s the prolonged positions of bending forward, reaching and kneeling that really become a problem 1-2 days later. Often you can manage in the moment, but notice stiffness and pain the next day. This can be reduced if short breaks are taken every hour or so and a few stretches are done. Stand up, roll your shoulders, circle your arms, and stretch your back. These small moves will benefit you in leaps and bounds and keep you out of trouble in the long run.

Here are a few tips to keep you safely enjoying other activities you might enjoy this summer. We see an increase of overuse injuries at this time of year from excited adventurers who jump out on the trails to bike, hike run, or go golfing. Rain or shine, it is just a treat to be rid of some snow – so I know you are eager to get out there and enjoy these few months!  Whatever your activity of choice, staying hydrated, flexible, warmed up and well conditioned is paramount.  Here are a few common activities we tend to see overuse injuries from and some helpful tips to keep in mind…

When it comes to GOLFING – stretching, warming up and some light workouts will have you hitting stronger with less effort. Key areas to stretch are torso rotation, shoulder circles, hamstrings and a lunge stretch for the calves and hip flexors. Oblique abdominal sit ups and the side plank will give your back more power and stability in the downswing and follow through. Standing on one foot (try closing your eyes) will challenge your balance and joint awareness and benefit your golf swing.

While HIKING out on the trails, protect your knees and avoid slips and falls by using walking poles. Assisting your balance and keeping you standing taller will save your lower back and take stress off your knees.  Stretching your calves, glutes and hip flexors after your hike will help avoid that delayed muscle soreness you typically get on Monday!

These are just a few tips to get you ready for summer. Enjoy the activities you love, set a new fitness goal or simply enjoy some fresh air. If you are interested in resolving a current injury or getting set up on a personalized fitness program– there is still time and we would love to help! Hope to see you out on the trails!

Jennifer Gordon (BScPT, GunnIMS, AFCI)