With the start of the nice weather, we’re eager to get out in the garden and get our planting done. After a long winter cooped up inside we get excited to spend time outside in our gardens. But, without the proper techniques and getting your body ready for the work, many injuries and strains can happen. Gardening uses muscles that we don’t often use and after a season or so of them resting, getting right back into it without a proper warm up and stretching can cause strains or muscle soreness.

Getting active and working out several weeks prior to the start of gardening season, is the best way to eliminate the chance of injury. It is also important to begin stretching your back, legs, arms and even your hands and feet to prevent soreness. Simple stretches such as lying flat on the floor, bringing your knees up to your chest and holding them there with your arms. Hold for a minute, then relax and repeat. Also try standing up straight then slowly bending at the waist to touch your toes. Before each gardening session, you should get your body warmed up with 10 to 15 minutes of brisk walking or other activities that get your blood flowing.

Lifting and digging in the garden also needs to be done properly so you avoid injury. When lifting, keep your back straight, bend from your knees and use your legs not your back to lift. Bend your knees as you dig. Use your largest muscle, your legs, and make sure you alternate between a right-handed and left-handed stance.

To save some of the heavy lifting or save you from over working the back, choose the right tools that can help you in the garden. Wheelbarrows, weed pullers, garden claws, longer handled shovels and spades, and rakes. Using the proper tools will help you keep a straighter back and eliminate working in a hunched over position. Try to keep your time working in the garden to 30 minute sessions with rest periods so to not over do it on your muscles.

Working in your garden is also a great way to get in your daily exercise and staying fit. You can add resistance to your gardening moves in the form of light weights. Raking, weeding, digging and pruning are great forms of exercise while you are out in the garden. Even mowing the lawn is a great form of exercise as you are pushing the lawn mower (weighted object) and walking. Digging is a great way to use the major muscle groups in your core and legs. Even sitting and weeding includes stretching and bending which will improve flexibility.

Every good workout, a garden workout included, should finish with a cool down session and stretching. Be garden smart. Stretch, warm up, and use the right tools to get the work done in your garden so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor injury free.

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