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A hand shovel scoops up dirt in the garden

Your Whole Health: Gardening & Yard Work Tips

Warmer weather means more time spent outdoors and a new set of tasks like planting and watering flowers, picking up fallen limbs or mowing the lawn.

Aimee Jokerst, DC (’97), FIAMA, assistant director of clinical experience at Logan, and Mero Nunez Jr., DC, assistant professor, offer tips on how to stay safe and healthy while spending more time working in your lawn or garden, including an easy-to-remember acronym developed by Dr. Nunez: POT.

  • P – pace yourself. Gardening and yardwork are much like a marathon, not a sprint. Be sure to take breaks and don’t do too much work at once.
  • O – the rule of opposites. When gardening or working in the yard, you might find yourself in a static posture for long periods of time. If so, take a break to stretch and move your body in the opposite direction.
  • T – tools. Find the right tools for the job – and for you. For example, tools that have long handles require less bending, and ergonomic tools that have padded grips or handles can help ease the strain on your hands and wrists. Be sure the equipment you are using is the right size for your height, as well.

“Avoid awkward postures, and try not to twist your back,” Dr. Nunez said. “I like to tell people to put their nose where their toes are, or to make sure to turn their entire body rather than twisting, which strains the back.”

Other general gardening and yard work safety tips include:

  • When bending over, learn to “hip hinge” or use your leg muscles instead of back muscles.
  • Use proper lifting techniques for heavier items, and always ask for help if the item is too heavy to lift alone.
  • If you’re planning to start a garden but have pre-existing issues with bending, consider planting a vertical garden or utilizing raised flower beds.
  • Stay hydrated! Between the heat, humidity, and perspiration, it is very easy to become dehydrated. Drink even more water than you think you need and take breaks in the shade or indoors when possible.
  • Spread your work out over a few days to avoid overuse or muscle strains.

“Keep in mind that, while it might not feel like it in the moment, gardening and yard work can be hard on your back,” said Dr. Jokerst. “Take breaks, stretch and make sure to stay hydrated in the summer heat.”