Protecting Your Back While Gardening

Gardening is a beautiful thing—it provides exposure to nature, sunlight, and studies have shown that sunlight lowers blood pressure and increases Vitamin D. When working in the garden, this light exercise can help burn calories and improve strength for anyone weeding, digging, raking, or mowing. In addition to physical health benefits, it can boost your mood. Read on to find out why gardening is beneficial to your health, all around, as well as what you can do to make sure gardening helps your back and doesn’t cause reinjury.
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Gardening with children

Benefits of Gardening

LOWERS CANCER RISK

Being out in the sun has been shown to decrease your risk of getting certain cancers (colorectal, bladder, breast, prostate) and can help decrease your risk of getting MS (multiple sclerosis) and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

 

IMPROVES VITAMIN D LEVELS

While Vitamin D is important for keeping your immune system functioning well, and keeping your bone structure strong, it’s also vital for protecting your body against some diabetic conditions, psoriasis flares, and dementia. 

 

PROVIDES EXERCISE

Getting better sleep, improving strength, and staying within a healthy weight range might be on everyone’s “to-do” list, but did you know gardening can help you do all three? A bit of time in the garden counts as exercise, which helps your body rest better, improve metabolic function, and build up your strength.

BOOSTS MOOD

In one 12-week gardening study, participants with depression noted improved mood—even for three months after the end of the study. Clinicians noted that all participants of the study showed significant improvement in terms of mental health.


Best Gardening Practices

STAY COMFORTABLE

When you get into a hobby, it’s important to stay within your comfort zone—mostly. In addition to using gardening chemicals carefully and wearing sunscreen regularly, you should also be making sure you’re not pushing yourself into a territory where you’ll injure or re-injure yourself. Keep this in mind as you start out in your gardening hobby, especially when you bend down, kneel, or lift heavy objects:

  • Lift with your legs, keeping your back up and down, while your knees do the bending
  • Avoid bending your back forwards
    • Squat instead
  • Keep your back in a straight line
  • Use a pad for your knees when kneeling on concrete or other hard surfaces
  • Ask a friend or partner for help when transporting heavy items (even if it’s in a wheelbarrow)
  • Use the right tools and gloves
  • Ask for assistance at the gardening store when purchasing big, heavy plants or bags of fertilizer or mulch—and find a helper for when you get it home, too.
  • For safe lifting tips, check out ACS Gardens’ guidance on how to lift:
    • Stand close to the object you’re lifting, but don’t crowd
    • Place your feet shoulder-width apart
    • Bend down towards the object from the hips and knees
    • Take hold of the object carefully, with a good grip
    • Use your leg muscles to lift your body and the object upwards
    • Keep your back as straight as you can at all times while doing the lift, and subsequently moving the object
    • Lowering the object should be the reverse of the lifting technique

 

KNOW YOUR LIMITS

Pay attention to your body. You know what has been injured in the past, or what areas of your body might be in regular pain. Take breaks. Know your limits. Don’t overdo it, and especially avoid twisting at the waist while lifting at the waist. Following these tips can help prevent reinjury, reduce pain, and subluxation (when one of your vertebrae is out of place). Prevent injury or pain by also:

  • Stretching before you begin
  • Staying standing by using a garden bench
  • Taking regular breaks
  • Filling watering cans halfway up (keep it light)
  • Switching it up (don’t spend all day weeding or hoeing; repetitive motion can injure you)
  • Planting in containers—keep them movable so you can put them in one place and have them at hand level instead of requiring kneeling or bending over

 

Injured While Gardening?

Did you injure yourself while gardening? Maybe you lifted the bag of fertilizer wrong, or you spent too much time bending at the waist picking weeds. It can happen. Contact our office so we can observe the problem, propose a solution, and gently adjust you. We want you to keep enjoying gardening, especially since it has so many wonderful benefits. Reach out to make an appointment so you can get back to doing what you love.

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