As spring fast approaches, so too does the thoughts of digging in the dirt, planting, and eating fresh vegetables. Yes, gardening time is here again! Growing up on a farm, and now being married into a traditional Italian family, gardening has always been, and still is, a significant part of my summer. Although I know there are many great things that I enjoy about gardening, there is lots to think about when starting a new gardening season. We can reap many great rewards from the fruits of our labour, but so too can the labour cause wear and tear to our bodies.
Let’s look at some benefits and tips to getting this gardening season started.
Here are some reasons why gardening is so beneficial.
1. Increased time outside: Gardening is an opportunity for everyone to experience regular contact with nature. This can help us feel less stressed, reduce symptoms of depression, and improve overall concentration and attention.
2. Increased sunlight: Sunlight supports vitamin D production in our bodies, which is important for bone growth.
3. Increased physical activity: Gardening is considered a moderate intensity exercise, like playing tennis or walking at a fast pace. Squatting, bending, leaning, kneeling, crouching, and standing are all major parts of gardening and is done without even thinking about it.
4. Improved mental state: Gardening can help people to cope with serious health issues.
5. Increased social interactions: Gardening has been shown to lead to an increased life satisfaction and life expectancy.
6. Leads to better diets: Growing fresh fruits and vegetables encourage people to eat more healthy and delicious produce.
Although there are so many great benefits to gardening, it is important to put just as much care into your body as it is into tending to your garden. Think of your body as a gardening tool. If you don't take care of it properly it can rust and break down and not perform optimally. Eventually, if you are not mindful of the stresses that gardening can put on your muscles and joints, sore knees and a stiff back can creep up on you sooner than later.
Here are some helpful tips to having a successful, enjoyable and healthy gardening season.
1. Drink plenty of water: It is easy to become dehydrated while being out in the sun for too long, which can lead to a decrease in your blood pressure. This can cause dizziness and even fainting. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. You can lose up to 10 percent of your blood volume before you feel thirsty. Therefore, it is important to drink water before, during and after gardening.
2. Warm up and take regular breaks: The increased activity of standing, stooping, kneeling and crouching can lead to aching muscles and sore backs. Be sure to warm up by doing basic leg and back stretching. Then take at least a 5 min break every hour to sit, drink some water, and replenish your energy so that you can continue at a safe pace.
3. Pace yourself: Do only what you are safely able to do at one time. Slow down if needed and know that your garden will still be there the next time you want to continue.
4. Proper lifting techniques are a must: Lift from your legs and not your back – regardless of how heavy or light the object is that you are picking up, be sure to have the energy come from your legs and not your back. Bend from the knees to keep your center of gravity balanced and to save your back from added stress. Also keep the task closer to your body to prevent excessive reaching.
5. Know what you can and cannot carry: Use a wheelbarrow or a cart to move heavy bags of dirt or bushels of vegetables. If you do not have one available to you then lighten the load by taking smaller buckets-full, making more frequent trips back and forth, even if it takes more time. Or you could ask a family member or neighbour to help with lifting heavy and awkward items also.
6. Protect your knees and back: Cushion your knees with foam knee pads, cushions or kneelers while weeding, planting or picking crops. You can also use a small gardening bench to allow you to sit while you work. These strategies will help prevent or lessen knee pain and backaches.
7. Do work with long handled tools: Using long handled tools such as a shovel, hoe, rake, or extended weed puller can help decrease the need for kneeling and lessen stress on your back.
8. Vary planting methods: Try using hanging baskets or taller table planters to avoid having to bend. Raising your garden beds can also be helpful.
9. Get regular massages: Relieve pain and stress by getting regular massages to ease those aching and tired muscles.
Over all, remember that gardening is supposed to be enjoyable. Be sure to pay attention to your body and don’t push it beyond its limits.
Come in to see me at WIN Health Solutions for a massage to get you ready for the garden or to ease those muscle aches and pains. We can chat about why gardening is great!
Until then, as the days get longer, the sun starts to shine more and the weather gets warmer, get ready to embark on a new gardening season!
(2018). Retrieved 28 April 2018, from HTTPS://DENGARDEN.COM/GARDENING/10-BEST-TIPS-FOR-PREVENTING-AND-REDUCING-KNEE-AND-BACK-PAIN-IN-THE-GARDEN
Feel Great While Gardening. (2018). Prevention. Retrieved 28 April 2018, from HTTPS://WWW.PREVENTION.COM/HEALTH/HEALTHY-LIVING/PAIN-RELIEF-TIPS-PAIN-FREE-GARDENING
Take Care of Yourself while You Take Care of Your Garden. (2018). I Spy Physiology Blog. Retrieved 28 April 2018, from HTTPS://ISPYPHYSIOLOGY.COM/2018/04/11/TAKE-CARE-OF-YOURSELF-WHILE-YOU-TAKE-CARE-OF-YOUR-GARDEN/
Why gardening is good for your mind as well as your body. (2018). The Conversation. Retrieved 28 April 2018, from HTTP://THECONVERSATION.COM/WHY-GARDENING-IS-GOOD-FOR-YOUR-MIND-AS-WELL-AS-YOUR-BODY-50094