Each year as the temperatures begin to warm and the days get longer, and we reach for umbrellas and rain jackets, we know that spring is in the air, and it will not be long before we start spending more time outside. Many of us enjoy yardwork and gardening. While working in the garden is a great stress reliever and a natural form of therapy, it can be a source of injury if you're not physically prepared.

Working outside means that it's even more important to be aware of proper body mechanics.Prolonged periods of bending, stooping and kneeling, as well as twisting, can lead to wear and tear and extra tension on our weightbearing joints like our back, hips, and knees. Many of these activities are done on uneven ground, which can complicate matters. Don't forget the heavy lifting of mulch and soil bags, full flowerpots, and maneuvering equipment like wheelbarrows and lawnmowers -- all potential risks.

Fortunately, there are many ways we can minimize the risk of injury by following some simple
and effective guidelines:

  • Use the proper tools for the job in front of you. Using the wrong equipment will lead to increased and unneeded stress on your muscles and joints.
  • Pick up and carry heavy objects close to the body, preferably near your center of gravity at the abdomen or pelvis.
  • When you do have to bend over, keep your back as straight as you can, and gently bend your knees and hips to bend.
  • Invest in a gardening stool so that you can get down closer to the ground for activities like pulling weeds or planting flowers.
  • Avoid any twisting when possible, and instead rotate your feet to face the direction that you are working.
  • Take frequent breaks. If you've been bending or stooping, move to a different task that you can perform in a standing position. If it's hot outside, grab a drink of water and go to the shade or inside inside to cool off for 10-15 minutes before starting again. You may also choose to stand and perform some gentle back bends with hands on hips to change the pressure on your lower spine.
  • Phone a friend: it is always more enjoyable to share the duties with someone else, and you can recruit the extra set of hands when it comes time to lift something heavier. It may also help to take breaks in positions when you have someone to talk to.
  • Remember to stay hydrated, as your muscles are more pliable, and you can help avoid heat exhaustion.

Incorporating these simple ideas into your gardening routine will help reduce the likelihood of injury and pain, and it will allow you to enjoy the fresh air outside and the gratification of a beautiful flower or veggie garden you can be proud of for years to come.