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The latest lockdown, the advent of spring and a bit of sun has sent a lot of people (me included) into their gardens to get those jobs done.  Gardening can be heavy physical work and while it’s great to help you keep fit if you aren’t careful you can get an injury.

Because gardening isn’t formal exercise or a sport people don’t think about being careful before they go outside and start digging! You wouldn’t dream of going into the gym and start lifting weights without a proper warm up (I hope not anyway), so doesn’t it make sense to warm up before gardening? And do some cool down stretches after?

Why do people get injured gardening?

There are many movements in gardening that put the body at risk of injury

  • Heavy lifting
  • Kneeling
  • Bending over flowerbeds
  • Digging and sweeping

Not to mention other risks such as

  • sunburn
  • cuts, scratches
  • injuries from using power tools

Ten tips to keep yourself safe gardening

1 warm up

Don’t go out and start hard tasks straight away – warm up doing some easy jobs and gradually work up to harder tasks. Do a couple of stretches as well.

2 Take care lifting

Heavy lifting can injure your back so avoid it where you can.

  • Can you get someone to help you lift heavy items?
  • Use a wheelbarrow to move things around rather than carry them
  • Get a couple of smaller bags of compost rather than one large one. A large size bag of compost might work out cheaper than 2 smaller ones but is it worth risking a back injury to save a few pence?
3 use a kneeling pad

If you are kneeling for long periods a kneeling pad can really help save your knees

4 Change tasks frequently

Keeping your body in an awkward position for a long time or performing a repetitive movement can really injure your body. To avoid this keep swapping tasks around. For example do a little digging and then switch to an easier job for a while as a break.

5 Use the right tools

Using the right tools makes work much easier! Can you use a power tool instead of a hand tool to make the job easier? There are many tools available for daily hire from tool hire companies – so you don’t even need to buy them yourself! Long handled tools can help prevent bending and reduce back strain.

mann doing gardening

man doing gardening

6 wear the right gear

Gardening gloves help protect you from thorns and cuts. Sturdy footwear helps prevent slipping and protects your feet from sharp spades etc. Do you need to put suncream on?

7 take care with chemicals

Make sure you store and use chemicals such as weedkiller, fertiliser etc properly. Don’t forget some plants can be toxic such as ragwort or lilies. Wear gloves and wash your hands if you touch anything potentially toxic.

8 Don’t overdo it

I know it’s tempting to try to tackle all the jobs at once especially if you are at home now self isolating.  You might normally have a gardener who can’t come now so suddenly taking on more work. Listen to your body – if things are starting to hurt you need a break.

9 strengthen your core

Core strengthening can really reduce your risk of injury as a strong core supports your back and stabilises your body.  Here are some good core exercises or try some Pilates classes on youtube.

10 cool down

If you do heavy garden work take a few minutes to cool down after – walk slowly around the garden and do a few stretches. Don’t abruptly sit down and have a cuppa or you can end up getting stiff!

Having said all of that gardening is a good form of exercise and has many benefits including boosting your mood and conditioning your body. So go and do it just be careful!

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Anna founded Relax Therapies in 2015 and is based in Birkenhead, Wirral. Anna is a Sports therapist specialising in the treatment of chronic pain through massage.

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