The warmer weather, sunshine and smell of freshly blooming flowers can motivate you to get outdoors and tend to your garden, do some landscaping or tidy up the yard. And the physical activity of doing gardening or yard work can be a welcome change to the usual treadmill or indoor exercise routines.
You might not think about it, but pushing a lawn mower, bending down to pull weeds or spreading mulch are all activities that involve muscle groups from several areas in your body. And if you’ve been less active during the winter months, it’s easy to injure yourself once you get back outdoors. Follow these safety tips for working outdoors to remain safe and pain-free while doing yard work.
Know your limits
Whether gardening or mowing the lawn, it’s important to avoid any activities or movements you know will aggravate pain. If regular bending, squatting or lifting is not part of your normal routine, you’ll want to start slow. Before you begin working, take a few minutes to properly warm up by:
- Walking in place—bring your knees up high
- Extending your arms out to the side doing arm circles
- Doing wrist circles
Use good posture
Gardening can take a toll on your neck, back and knees. Making sure your body is well-supported and maintaining correct posture can help you avoid injury and soreness after a day spent in the yard.
Take frequent breaks and change positions to keep things moving pain-free.If you’re spending a lot of time on your knees, consider sitting on a step stool or using a pad to remove stress from the knees. When lifting heavy items, consider using a back support, and remember to bend at the hips and lift with your legs.
If you’ll be squatting on one knee over a period of time, try alternating which knee you’re squatting down on.
Have the right gear
Using gardening gloves, proper shoes and even knee pads can help protect your body from injury and strain. Don’t forget to use proper sun protection—a hat, sunscreen or sunglasses—to protect your skin and eyes from the sun’s rays. If you’re using gardening items like clippers, be sure to use the right size. Smaller grip sizes can be easier on hands and wrists.
Take care of yourself when you’re done
While you’re outdoors—and when you finish—don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated by drinking enough water. If you’re working in sunny or warm conditions, take breaks in a shaded area.
When you’ve finished your work, stretch your legs. Place a leg on a lawn chair and hinge at your hips, stretching your hips and lower back. If you have arthritis, be sure to ice the areas you’ve been using to prevent and relieve any pain.
Properly warming up, knowing your limits, using necessary supports and staying hydrated can all help keep you feeling your best (and your lawn and garden looking beautiful) when working outdoors. Get out and enjoy the sun.