The garden is a sense of pride for many people and it’s not uncommon for retirees to spend a day (or weekend) out in the garden tending to their flowers and plants.
But while it may seem like a safe and leisurely hobby, if you’re not careful, a long day in the yard can take a toll on your body, exercise scientist Van Marinos tells Starts at 60.
Most gardening activities often require a broad range of physical motion such as bending, lifting, stretching and pushing. Although many of these movements may seem fairly straightforward, if our bodies aren’t properly prepared, then injuries may occur. In order to work safely in the garden, here are three easy exercises you should try to do each week.
“Learning to control and tighten the muscles around your midsection before moving under any sort of load will go a long way to reducing injury risk,” Marinos says.
To engage your core, lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. “Start with some deep abdominal breathing, making sure that it’s mainly your tummy that rises and falls, not your chest,” Marinos advises.
He then says to place a couple of fingers on the soft part of your stomach between the hip bones and your belly button, and to take a deep breath in. As you breathe in, push your fingers in towards your spine, then push back against those fingers with your tummy muscles.
“Once you feel this happening, try and breathe out whilst maintaining the tension in those muscles,” he says.
A lot of gardening activities require bending and lifting, which is why strength training exercises like squats are so important. Marinos says beginners should start with chair squats.
Stand in front of the chair with your feet hip-width apart and toes pointing straight. Keeping your feet flat on the floor, slightly turn your knees out — this will help protect them. Lower your bottom towards the chair without actually sitting down, tap it with your bum, then slowly rise back to the starting position. Marinos suggests starting off with one set of 10 to 20 reps (the number of times you perform a specific exercise) a few times per week.
“If you can’t make it all the way down without losing stability, work within a range that suits you until you get stronger,” he says.
If you’ve ever carried a bucket of water through the garden, you’ve already performed a suitcase carry. It’s a relatively simple exercise, but the benefits are huge.
Choose a weight that you can carry comfortably (a bucket with soil, watering can or dumbbell work great), and place it between your legs. Bend down (hips back, chest up and core tight) and pick up the weight with one hand, then start to walk. Remember to keep a tall spine and your shoulder blades pulled back. Marinos suggests walking for about 20 seconds to start, before changing arms. Take a short 30-second break and complete another couple of sets.
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