The Activity of Gardening
A garden is a truly wonderful thing. We’re right to feel proud of our own garden, as after all, we spend so much time in it (particularly during these hotter summer months). We are forever enjoying it, modifying it, improving it or tending to it. As well as time, a lot of effort, care and attention is dedicated to gardening, whether that be designing the next phase of our existing garden, transforming it completely or tending to the must-do tasks of mowing, raking, digging, pruning, hoeing, weeding – this list of tasks is endless. But have you ever paid attention to how gardening makes us active? Gardening really does get us moving and contributes to NHS guidelines of undertaking 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
We might squat to do the weeding, reach to cut a tall hedge, push a wheelbarrow uphill, lift a heavy plant into position, dig out a home for a new tree, all of which require one or a combination of these fundamentals: strength, flexibility, balance, co-ordination, power, endurance and sometimes a great deal of patience too! Without us even realising we’re challenging ourselves doing any of these things whilst at the same time elevating our heart rate and maybe even breaking into a sweat. All of which are good for the body and mind, keeping us physically and mentally strong whilst releasing those all important ‘happy’ hormones – the endorphins – making us feel better and calmer afterwards. Plus the added bonus of having a fantastic-looking well-kept garden. What’s not to like about that?
Like any ‘fantastic looking garden’, it needs looking after but it’s worth remembering that we need to look after ourselves too. When gardening, we need to ensure we stay hydrated throughout but most importantly ensure that we mobilise our joints before we begin. Simple Stretching exercises for gardeners prior to and post each gardening session is a sure way to prepare the body as best we can.
Why bother you might be thinking? Because in the same way your garden needs care and attention, you do too. How many times have you woken up the next day after gardening with a stiff back, a stiff neck, sore legs, sore arms or possibly all of the above?
Why Stretching Exercises for Gardeners is Important
Mobilising the joints and stretching will not only prep your body for the work ahead but also help it unwind from the work you’ve just completed. Plus it’s vital for 3 other key reasons:
- Speeds up recovery time: to help ensure that you don’t ache either at all afterwards or for less time than usual.
- Decreases the risk of injury: think about how many times you’ve heard of someone pulling a muscle in the garden by doing something we might deem to be a simple and not taxing task. It may have even happened to you?
- Increases your range of movement: for instance maybe you find it hard to squat and reach down to do the weeding right now but through stretching (before and after gardening and on a daily basis) this may help to loosen things up.
8 Quick Stretching Exercises for Gardeners
So what could a mobility/stretch routine before and after gardening look like? By following these 8 steps that will take you less than 10 minutes, could help your body to feel freer and looser:
- Wrist Circles and Shakes: circle both wrists clockwise for 15 seconds and anticlockwise. Then shake both wrists out for 15 seconds
- Arm Circles: circle both arms forwards for 15 seconds, backwards for 15 seconds, clockwise for 15 seconds and anticlockwise for 15 seconds.
- Shoulder Shrugs: raise your shoulders up towards your ears, hold for the count of 3 seconds and drop down. Repeat 3 times.
- Torso rotation: keeping your pelvis/hips facing forwards rotate slowly through the torso firstly to the right and hold for 2 seconds, before rotating to the left and repeat 5 times each side. Be sure to rotate to the point where it feels comfortable.
- Overhead Reach and Side Bends: reach both arms out overhead and reach upwards, come up onto your tip toes. Then reach overhead to the left, return to the middle and reach overhead to the right. Return to the middle and drop back to the heels. Repeat 3 times each side.
- Floor Touch and Overhead Reach: start with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart, bend through the knees then reach down to the floor and touch it or as far you can. Then push up through the legs, extend the arms and reach up overhead. Repeat 5 times in total.
- Toe Touch and Hold: start with your feet hip width apart, hinge at the hips and with straight legs reach down as far as comfortable – do not force the reach. Hang there for 10 secs. Repeat twice more.
- Straight Leg and Arm Side Sweep Hold: start with your feet hip width apart, hinge at the hips and with straight legs reach down as far as comfortable. Sweep the right arm around to the left hand side of the body by rotating through the torso and hold in position for 15 seconds. Repeat with left arm to the right-hand side.
Now you’ve learnt to ‘put yourself first in your garden’, here’s to happier gardening and even better results both out of the garden and in it. Happy stretching!