July 3, 2003 at 10:30 a.m.
•Reduces stress levels. Walking through a garden employing your senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing - taking the time to appreciate the peace and tranquility helps to remove tension.
•Encourages mental alertness. Gardening is a journey of discovery requiring consistent hand-eye coordination, and is a continuous learning experience.
•Takes advantage of the power of sunlight. Sunlight helps the body to make Vitamin D, essential for healthy bones and linked to the prevention of osteoporosis. Sunlight is also proven to be beneficial for mental well-being.
•Provides physical fitness. 200 to 360 calories per hour can be burned doing moderate to heavy gardening activities.
Gardening can be very physical; therefore, as with any physical workout, it is extremely important to go through warm up exercises before starting and a cool down period when done. Simple stretches, similar to those used by walkers, runners and weight trainers, and proper techniques for lifting, bending and carrying, can help reduce muscle strain injury and fatigue. These same stretches can be used for your cool-down session.
If under medical supervision, always check with your provider for guidelines before beginning any new physical activities.
Breathe in and out, slowly and rhythmically, while exercising. Do not bounce or jerk your body. Stretch as far as is comfortable; stretching should not be painful.
At least 10 minutes of a variety of the following suggested activities to involve your entire body should be sufficient. Injury occurs more often to "cold" muscles than to "warmed up" muscles. Choose those that you are most comfortable doing:
•Gently roll your shoulders left to right, repeating at least six to eight times.
•High step march in-place, raising your knees up high as you bring your arms across your chest. Repeat for a few minutes.
•Single knee curls, lying flat on your back and curl your knees up toward your chest, hold for five seconds and alternate knees. Repeat several times.
•Lift a can of soup in each hand, straight armed from waist to shoulder height and back to waist, gently and slowly, repeating 10 times.
Stretching moves (may be done free standing or while resting one hand on back of chair, table or other support):
•Stand up straight, step forward with one foot, gently lean forward to feel the muscles begin to pull in the back of the straight leg. Hold for 10-20 seconds. Return to standing position and repeat with other leg. Repeat 3 times.
•Stand up straight, rest hands on small of your back, lean backward till you just feel your stomach muscles begin to pull, hold for 10-15 seconds. Return to standing position; repeat 3 times.
•While sitting or standing, bring one straight arm across chest and hold in place at elbow with opposite hand. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Repeat with other arm; repeat 3 times each arm.
•Bring one foot up behind you, holding the foot with hand on same side. Hold for 10-15 seconds till you feel a pull in the front of the bent leg. Repeat with other leg. Repeat 3 times each.
•While sitting or standing, bring both arms straight up and clasp hands. Reach as high as comfortably possible. Gentle lean to the left, hold for 10 seconds, then gently and slowly lean to the right, holding for 10 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
•While sitting or standing, bring both arms straight out in front of you and clasp hands. Gently turn from your waist or hips (depending on whether you are sitting or standing) to the left as far as comfortably possible, hold for 10 seconds, then gently and slowly bring arms back to the front and turn to the right as far as comfortably possible. Hold for 10 seconds and return to front. Repeat 3 times.
•Stand straight, rest arms on chair or table in front of you (at arms distance from body). Keeping your back straight, slowly lower your body, bending your knees, to the point that your upper legs are parallel to the floor or ground. Hold 10 seconds and slowly return to standing position. Repeat 3 times.
•Extend one arm straight out, with palm of hand facing out. With other hand, pull on the palm of the extended hand until stretch is felt in your forearm, keeping your elbow straight. Repeat with other arm/hand; repeat 3 times.
•Extend one arm straight out, with palm of hand facing in. With other hand, pull on the back of the extended hand until stretch is felt in the forearm, keeping your elbow straight. Repeat with other arm/hand; repeat 3 times.
Safety Tips for Gardening
•Start out with 10 minutes of simple warm up exercises.
•Wherever and whenever possible, alternate limbs as you work. Use your right hand for awhile, and then change to the left hand. The same is good for your legs, such as while raking or digging.
•Vary your gardening tasks and don't overdo any one activity. Break the tasks up into 10-15 minute chunks of time, such as weeding for 15 minutes then digging for 10 minutes and then pruning for 15 minutes. Allow a few minutes of rest between each activity, a great time to take a slow drink of water, get out of the sun, and maybe do a few stretches.
•Set a time limit. It's very easy to loose track of time while gardening.
•Avoid prolonged periods of:
- Gripping or repetitive jarring
- Bending or digging
- Kneeling or sitting back on your heels
•Always bend your knees and keep your back straight when lifting or pulling weeds. Squat down instead of bending over.
• Adapt your tools or purchase specialty tools that allow you to keep your back as straight as possible.
•Match the size of the tool handles to the size of your hand.
•Hold tools in a loose comfortable grip; tightly gripping tools can cause undo strain.
•Wrap slippery handles with tape to improve your grip on it.
•Use extended handles to reduce the need to reach.
•Ergonomic tools are available in many styles in most garden centers.
•Use the right tool for the right job.
•Use wagons, wheelbarrows, and trailers to transport heavy and/or multiple supplies. DON'T OVERLOAD THEM. Make a few lighter trips instead of one heavy trip.
•Use power tools for repetitive work.
•Keep all tools sharp and clean.
•Use knee pads or foam mats for kneeling.
•Use low padded kneeling stools with side handles to help you stand up.
•Move with your work, keeping it in front of you and close to your body to avoid reaching and twisting.
•Create raised beds to reduce bending and kneeling.
•Have workbenches at correct height to avoid bending (2-4 inches below elbows).
•Wear loose, comfortable clothing.
•Use sunscreen of at least 15 SPF, even in cloudy weather.
•Work within your strength.
•Take a break when tired.
•Spread heavy tasks over a week rather than trying to do in one weekend.
•Spread major projects out over several weeks.
•Take time to recover between projects.
•Pay attention to any discomfort; don't work through pain. Seek medical attention if pain persists.
One of the more important things a gardener can do to maintain peak performance is to drink water - before, during and after working. When you exercise, and gardening is one of the more vigorous exercises most people do, your body builds up heat causing you to sweat to bring your body temperature back to normal. As sweat evaporates from your skin, your body cools. You can lose up to four cups of water during every hour of gardening, especially on warm days. You can become dehydrated quickly if you don't drink enough water.
By doing these simple exercises, using the right tools, trying some of the tips given, and caring for your body with ample water, nutrition and proper protection, you can continue to enjoy gardening for many years.