by ACE Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute, Alexandria, Arlington/Clarendon, Falls Church/ Merrifield, Fairfax / Fair Oaks, Great Falls, Herndon / Reston, Lansdowne / Leesburg, Tysons / Vienna
For many of us, gardening is the perfect way to relax and spend time outdoors. There’s something enriching about getting your hands in the soil, planting plants, and cultivating a garden. This work can be enjoyable, but it can also end up causing pain and even injuries. You can avoid the pain. Learn proper body mechanics and follow a few simple exercises. These can help prepare your body for the workload it will have to handle as you clear and prep your garden for the upcoming growing season.
Obviously, the whole body is involved when someone prepares a garden for the planting and growing season. The movements of squatting, twisting, reaching, lifting and carrying are some motions that can cause injuries to various parts of the body. By exercising the different parts of your body, you can prevent an injury or reduce the severity of the injury if one occurs.
When we move, our bodies are subjected to all kinds of stresses and strains due to the effects of gravity. The primary forces acting on our bodies are compressive and shear force. These forces are needed to help “hold” us together, but too much of either one can create an environment that leads to damage of the joints or soft tissues of the body. The human body relies on two kinds of stability to control the amount of force that occurs within it. There are static and dynamic stabilizing structures in the body. The static stabilizing structures are non-elastic and “leather-like” ligaments, fascia and capsules that surround the joints and muscles. The muscles provide dynamic stabilizing forces to the joints and help to prevent injuries. If these structures are properly prepared and conditioned, they are more capable of protecting the body against injurious forces.
A few simple, do-anywhere exercises can help prepare your body for the upcoming gardening season. Performing the stretches every day and the strengthening exercises every other day will provide you with an exercise routine that should help to prevent injuries and have the body prepared for the gardening season.
Squats: Stand in front of a chair as if you are going to sit down. Your feet should be shoulder width apart. Begin to “sit” down slowly and barely touch your buttocks to the chair seat.
Core strength: The core is every muscle that attaches to the pelvis. This includes the torso muscles and leg muscles. Planks can be performed to help strengthen these muscles.
Planks: Lie prone (on your stomach) and push yourself up off of the floor. Support your body weight on your forearms, elbows, and toes. If it is too hard to support your body weight this way, you may allow your knees to touch the floor. The position should be held for 10-30 seconds or longer.
Side Planks: Lie on one side. Push your body weight up off of the floor and support it with our forearm and elbow on the side where you are lying. If this position is too difficult, keep the entire side of your leg below the knee on the floor during the exercise. Hold the position 10-30 seconds or longer.
Superman: Lie on the floor, face down. Put your arms out to the side at shoulder level. Lift your arms off of the floor and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Push-ups: The “proper” position is to be prone (face down) on the floor and rise up on your hands and toes. Your elbows are straight and your hands are shoulder-width apart. Lower your body to the floor (don’t touch) and then “push” it back upwards to the starting position. You can modify this exercise by placing your knees on the floor throughout the routine.
Trunk rotations: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Slowly rotate your knees to the floor to one side. Hold the stretch and then rotate to the other side.
Hamstring stretch: Stand in front of a step. Put one heel on the step. Keep that knee straight and lean forward attempting to put your chest on that kneecap.
Walk: Getting you heart “in shape” has to be part of the program. Walk on a regular basis. You should walk fast enough that you have a difficult time holding a conversation. Try to walk for at least 30 minutes 3-4x per week.
In the event that you get injured, seek the treatment and advice of a Physical Therapist. There is no need to visit your doctor first but your insurance policy might require you to have a referral from your primary care physician to go to the Physical Therapist.
Gardening is a popular hobby for a lot of people and if they train themselves properly the chances of getting injured are greatly reduced. This entire exercise routine can be completed in less than ½ hour if you are doing just the exercises. The walk can be done on alternate days if it would fit into your schedule more conveniently.
The author of this article, ACE Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Institute has multiple Physical Therapy clinics in the VA /DC Metro area at Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church / Merrifield, Fairfax / Fair Oaks, Herndron / Reston, Lansdowne / Leesburg & Tysons Corner / Vienna . IF IT HURTS, SEE ACE PT FIRST!
Tid Bits of Info.
- More than 30% of all households in the U.S. have some kind of garden.
- Gardening costs can vary and be as low as $50 or into the thousands.
- Bending at the waist while holding an object in your hands can increase the pressure in lumbar spine disc almost 500%.
- A lot that has mature gardens and trees can have an increase in value of at least 25%.
- If you get injured, seek the advice and treatment of a Physical Therapist.