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Tips To Avoid Injury While Gardening

Many homeowners trade in their treadmills this time of year for exercise of the garden variety. Bending, reaching and digging in the garden can provide a great workout, but can cause muscle injury if precautions are not taken, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).

“A warm-up and cool-down period is just as important for gardening or doing yard work as it is for any other athletic activity,” said Dr. J. Michael Flynn, ACA’s chairman of the board. “Stretching during those periods is essential to preventing injuries, pain and stiffness.”

Stress-free Stretches

Before stretching for any activity, there are a few tips to keep in mind. Breathe in and out slowly throughout stretching exercises; stretch gently and smoothly — do not bounce or jerk your body in any way; and stretch as far as you can comfortably. You should not feel pain. Following are a few easy stretches recommended by Flynn for getting the most out of your gardening workout:

  • Stand up and prop your heel on a back doorstep or stool with your knee straight. Bend forward until you feel a slight pull at the back of the thigh, called the hamstring. You may need to stabilize yourself by holding onto a garage door handle or sturdy tree branch. Hold the position for 20 seconds, then relax. Do it once more, then hold the position for 20 seconds, then relax. Do it once more, then repeat with the other leg.

  • Stand up and put your right hand against a wall or other stable surface. Bend your left knee and grab your ankle with your left hand. Pull your heel toward your buttocks to stretch the quadricep muscle at the front of your thigh. Hold that position for 20 seconds, relax and do it again. Repeat with the other leg.

  • Weave your fingers together above your head with your palms up. Lean to one side for 10 seconds to stretch the upper body, then reverse. Repeat two or three times.

  • “Hug your best friend”: Wrap your arms around yourself and rotate to one side, as far as you can go. Hold it for 10 seconds. Than reverse. Repeat two or three times.

Be aware of your body’s form while working in the yard. Kneel instead of bending. Alternate your stance and motion as often as possible to balance the muscles used. Flynn recommends looking for stretching guides in your local bookstore.

When the Damage is Done

If you are already feeling the aches and pains of gardening, there are ways to alleviate the pain: apply a cold pack during the first 48 hours of symptoms or a heat pack after 48 hours; but if pain persists, consider visiting a chiropractor.

For more information visit the ACA’s Web site at

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