• General - Gardening

    Most people would not consider gardening as an exercise. Yet it is hard work and you need to train up for it, to be prepared.

  • There are over 250,000 gardeners in the UK needing treatment each year so the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has prepared this advice on how to help prevent injury.

    WARM-UP EXERCISES

    Before any vigorous activity like gardening, and especially if you’re out in the cold, you should warm your muscles up. Before you start digging, bend forwards and then back a few times, to limber up. Perhaps do a little running on the spot for a few minutes.

    Clothing:
    Don’t wear tight clothing or loose, unstable shoes for gardening. Wear warm comfortable clothes and well-fitting shoes

    Digging and Shovelling:
    This involves bending, twisting and lifting which can cause back injuries.

    For safe digging:
    Don’t stoop; when lifting or shovelling; take the strain with your legs rather than your back.
    Keep the back straight and slightly arched. The muscles in your legs are stronger than the muscles in your back.
    Don’t stay in the same position for too long. It puts a strain on your whole body. Stop frequently and change your back position. Either do a task in the garden that requires a different working position or have a rest.
    When shovelling rubble or earth, shovel small amounts each time. Use a long handled spade so you don’t have to bend too far.

    Weeding and Planting:
    When weeding or planting out, in your garden, don’t stoop down, however tempting it may be.
    Move close too your work. Kneel down on a mat, or use special knee-pads or a kneeler. You could also use a low stool. Alternatively, use a long-handled fork or hoe so you don’t have to bend.
    Don’t strain yourself by over-reaching. Move closer to the object instead.

    Lifting:
    When lifting in the garden:
    Keep your back straight. Bend your knees and push up with you´re your leg muscles. Keep your feet about 18 inches apart for balance.
    Don’t reach for the load or try to pull it towards you. It may be heavier than you expect; move close to it instead.
    Hold the load as close to your body as possible. Keep your shoulders well back and your arms as relaxed as possible.
    Don’t try to lift an object that is too heavy for you. Test the weight by lifting a corner. If the load is heavy you have several options. Roll or push it rather than carry it. Divide the load and make several trips. Use a wheelbarrow or trolley. Ask for assistance.
    Never carry a load that stops you from seeing where you are going.

    Pulling:
    Be careful when you are pulling up a deep-rooted shrub or tree. Remember to take the strain on your leg or arm muscles rather than your back.
    Keep close to the object and hold it firmly. With your feet apart, crouch and bend your knees and lean away from the object. Pull the object by straightening your legs.
    Keep your back straight. Move backwards with your knees slightly bent allowing your knees to take the strain.

    Equipment:
    Gardening equipment can help to take the strain out of your work. Make sure you are buying an implement that suits your size. Make sure it is not too heavy for you.
    Use equipment with care. Many items are relatively light and appear easy to manoeuvre, but watch your posture when pulling and pushing. When using a hover- mower don’t swing your body from the waist, you could strain your back. Turn your whole body in line with the mower. Don’t overload a wheelbarrow so that it becomes difficult to push. Make several trips instead

    Finished:
    When relaxing after your gardening tasks, try not to slouch in a chair, sit up straight. Choose a carver chair. Avoid the low sofas and ‘easy chairs’. Put a small cushion or rolled-up towel between the lower back and the chair to help support the natural curve in your spine, and relieve any strain in your back.
    This information is designed to help make gardening a more safe experience. If you do have any injury, you are recommended to seek treatment when symptoms persist for more than 36 hours.

    Paul Johnson