I have written several times in the past about the physical challenges of gardening and performing yard work. There is no doubt that gardening regularly is an excellent form of exercise, and if some in a sustained manner, meets the criteria of aerobic exercise which has cardiovascular benefits. But, like other forms of working out, gardening is something that we should prepare our bodies for to avoid and/or minimize the risks of injury associated with the varied physical stresses inherent in doing this kind of work. So, for example, when it comes to sorting out the trees in your garden this could be quite a difficult task sometimes and it might be worthwhile getting professional help, such as using someone like treequote, who can develop a tree service plan that meets your needs.
I don’t know about you, but I am full engulfed in the garden at this time of year. Whether it is the vegetable garden or flower beds, mid summer is the “full court press” for most gardeners. Just keeping up with the weeding is almost an eight-hour a day job! My wife and I are convinced that August is the month of vines. Somehow, magically, all sorts of nasty vines seem to spring out of the ground and grow like wild-fire, covering our trees and shrubs. Pulling them down and removing them in a true physical battle. In fact, my very first patient this week came to me because they pulled a back muscle while weeding in their garden just a few days prior. I routinely treat professional gardeners from some of our finest local public gardens. They have taught me a lot about the stresses that can occur doing this kind of work.
So, in order to better handle these physical challenges, I have developed a gardener’s training program, much like I would for someone who will be playing a sport and wants to perform better and feel better doing this activity.
1) “The Gardener’s Lift”: I love this exercise, as it really mimics many of the movements we all have to make in the garden. Put a light dumbbell, perhaps about 5 pounds, on a footstool placed next to one of your feet. Go into a half squatting position, keeping your low back arched inward. Turn and grasp the weight with both hands and lift the weight with straight arms upward diagonally across the body as you straighten your knees. Continue lifting the dumbbell until it is as shoulder level toward the opposite side of the body. Then, slowly lower it back to the stool on the same path, going into the half squat with back arched inward. Repeat this 10 times, and then turn around and repeat from the other side.
2. Wall Lean: Lean against a wall. Slide down the wall about 12 inches, ending in a shallow squat position. Hold in that position as long as you can. You should feel your thighs getting fatigues. When you get pretty tired, stand up and relax the legs. Do 3 repetitions, each one going to fatigue.
3. “Counter Stretch”: Stand next to a counter and hold onto the edge. Stride the legs apart with one left forward and one backward, both feet flat on the floor. Bend the forward knee and keep the rear knee straight until you feel a stretch in the front of the upper thigh of the rear leg. Hold for 30 seconds. Do 3 times on each leg.
Much like professional athletes have training programs that prepare themselves to perform best on the field or court, gardeners would do well to practice these simple exercises to ensure a good “season” in their activity. Remember, your garden will only look good if you are in great shape to give it the care it needs!
Written by John Bradley, PT
Performance Physical Therapy and Fitness