Once you’ve shaken off the winter blahs, you probably want to spend as much time as possible outside, and that includes devoting long hours towards tending your garden.
Although before you rush to exercise your green thumb, remember that gardening isn’t always as easy as it looks—in fact, it can be an intense physical activity and should be treated as such.
According to the British Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), 87,000 individuals in Britain ended up in hospital due to gardening injuries in 2006. Clearly, playing in the dirt isn’t as relaxing as it might seem.
The issue is that most people don't associate gardening with risk of injury the way they do sports and that can be problematic. After spending the winter indoors, many venture outside without considering gardening as exercise. Athletic Therapist David Adolph calls this “weekend warrior-itis.”
“When there is fitness involved, if you don’t use it, you lose it,” says Adolph, referring to former elite athletes as well as lay people who try to work out after being sedentary for a long period of time.
This carefree attitude can lead to myriad problems, including injuries associated with overexertion. “Repetitive strain injury can result from doing one task for too long,” says Health Canada.
Health Canada continues, “Muscle strain, back injuries and blisters can be caused by moving a greater weight than your body can handle, bending, and improper use of gardening tools.”
Naturally these types of injuries aren’t limited to gardening, but can occur thanks to other types of activity too, notes Athletic Therapist Fayez Abdulrahman who practices out of clinic in Montreal, Quebec.
While it might be tempting to head straight to the garden on the next sunny Saturday afternoon, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes to warm up before venturing outside.
Remember, if you weren’t as active as you would have liked all winter, you might be in for a nasty surprise if you don’t warm up.
When you’re sitting in the dirt, Health Canada recommends you find a comfortable posture for your body. It also suggests keeping your work close and in front of you to limit the amount of reaching and twisting you need to do.
If you’re concerned about knee injuries, consider investing in a padded kneeling stool and switch up your tasks to avoid repetition-related injuries.
Since you’re going to be outside, always wear a hat and sunscreen and drink lots of water, but you don’t need an athletic therapist to remind you of that; just your mother’s admonitions from your youth ringing in your ears.
B. Sc. CAT (C)
Fayez graduated from Concordia University in 2006 from the Exercise Science Athletic Therapy program and was certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association in 2007. He has been actively working in the field of fitness as a personal trainer (since 2003) and athletic therapist (since 2004) helping people achieve their goals while keeping them motivated.
BHK, DipSIM, CAT (C), CSCS
Dave Adolph is currently Manager of High Performance at Engage Sport North in Prince George, BC. He served as Head Athletic Therapist for the UBC Football Team from 2004-2015, and supported UBC Athletics in winning many National Championships through his AT role and mentorship of varsity student athletic trainers. He was also Head AT for the Canadian Women's National Soccer Team from 2004-2007 and the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2005 & 2006, as well as a Sessional Instructor in the UBC School of Kinesiology from 2004-2015.