Without a doubt, the most important gardening tool you own is your body. But unlike those carefully cared-for plants, it’s often the last thing to get the attention it deserves, especially at the beginning of the season, when your enthusiasm for gardening may exceed your fitness for it.
Gardening injuries are so common that chiropractors have a gardening season of their own. According to a 2003 poll by the Ontario Chiropractic Association, 88 per cent of the province’s chiropractors report that working in the garden is the most common source of back and neck pain they treat during the warm-weather season. Don’t be a statistic. This year, spend a little time taking care of the gardener.
That gardening is physically demanding work will come as no surprise. But did you know that you can burn up to 300 calories an hour working in the garden? That’s a workout on the scale of a game of tennis, volleyball or basketball. Toronto-based chiropractor Dr. Jennifer Drover, a co-owner of Core Insight Chiropractic , knows the importance of warming up before gardening.
“Go for a brisk 10-minute walk. Stretch. Then garden,” she advises. “Do not get out of bed and head for the yard.” She recommends the following exercises to target the body’s key “gardener” areas—the buttocks, back and thighs. Do each exercise two or three times, holding for 15 seconds each. It should be a gentle stretch. Don’t bounce or jerk.”
This exercise can be performed by sitting or standing. Extend your left arm over your head. Bend right from the waist. Then switch arms and bend left.
Balance with one hand against a tree or wall. Bend your right knee and grasp your ankle with your left hand. Hold. Repeat with your left knee. If you have a hard time balancing in this position, try the exercise sitting down. Sit and cross your legs with your left ankle resting on your right knee. Bend forward. Repeat with the other leg.
Sit. Bend forward from the hips, keeping your head down. Reach for the ground.
Stand. Reach your hands to the sky. Then, bending at the waist, reach toward your toes. Alternatively, sit on the edge of a chair with one leg extended in front. Slowly reach toward your toes. Alternate legs.