Whether it’s time to clear out annual veggie plants in the autumn, get digging in the spring or regular maintenance in between, we all want to do it as comfortably as possible.
Here are some tips that might help you stay well both during and after your gardening activities.
The Wonders of Stretches and Leverage
I’m a huge fan of stretching. I have found that it has both eased and prevented problems in my body. And I’m not alone. Runners and other athletes make a point of stretching before and after exerting themselves. And yes, while we aren’t exactly running a marathon, physiotherapists point out that these simple and often overlooked movements can make all the difference in how our body functions and feels. So, keep stretching in mind for those gardening activities that impact the body like the repetitive action of raking leaves, the heavy jobs like digging or lifting pots and the movements that can put the body off centre like weeding. You might figure out on your own what your body needs by what feels good but if you need advice, you may want to check out online videos, go to your local gym to speak with a trainer or check out this PBS television series “Garden Fit”. The hosts — a long time gardener and a fitness expert — visit gardens across America both enjoying the garden and helping the gardener with specific tips on how to address their various aches and pains.
In addition to stretching before or after an activity, taking a few moments to do a counter move while in the job itself can be hugely important. For instance, when bending over for a long while or repetitively, take periodic standing up breaks, being aware of your posture and your breathing to help release any tension that has built up. This will minimize the strain on the back and other parts.
Another way to move in ways that keep the body happy is by bending the knees and keeping your back comfortably straight when lifting and then carrying the item close to your body.
We often overlook the importance of good clean water – and plenty of it. If you aren’t in the middle of nowhere and trying to keep your bathroom breaks to a minimum, get water in you throughout the job, especially if your heart rate goes up and/or it’s hot and sunny. We lose water with sweat which is obvious to our senses but did you know we also lose some with our breathing, and a fair bit at that, too?!
Hats and Gloves
I love gardening with my bare hands and feet. I think the connection with the earth is important to our health and research has backed this up. A direct contact with the ground can support one’s immune system and reduce inflammation among other things. But there are definitely times that gloves come in handy, like pulling plants that can be abrasive on the skin or even give cuts as with some grasses.
Hats can be a help in hot sunny weather but there are a few factors to consider. If the hat has a wide brim then you help keep the sun off your skin and if it is a light colour then it can keep your head cooler than if you have dark hair and are exposed to hot sun for a period of time. It’s best to have a fabric, however, that allows heat to escape otherwise you could have an uncomfortable build up of heat instead.
Growing plants in raised beds can allow easier access to the plants and soil, helpful for anyone with mobility challenges but also convenient for anyone who wants to ease up on straining the body. Keep the bed narrow enough that you can easily reach into the middle as needed. The height depends upon your needs and preference but two to three feet is a typical height used for those who need to sit in chairs or are in a wheelchair, keeping in mind our bodies are all different and some have a taller upper body than others.
Happy – and comfortable – gardening!