Spring is finally here, and many seniors will be working hard outdoors gardening!
Over the years I have had many home health patients who have loved to garden. I have been able to appreciate many beautiful home vegetable gardens, rose gardens, and even indoor displays of green thumbs. I have also received many good tips from my patients for my own gardening endeavors!
Gardening is a great way to stay active, enjoy nature, and take in some fresh air. So many people enjoy the hobby of gardening, but it can lead to injury and pain for a weakened body: crunchy knees, weak backs, and arthritic shoulders. As we age, it is increasingly important to protect and prepare our bodies for seasonal and challenging activities.
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Always consult your personal health clinician before beginning any new exercise program. See the Medical Disclaimer.
Gardening can be a great way to stay flexible and strong, if performed correctly and safely.
Here are a few ideas to prepare your body for gardening:
Perform regular general cardio activity (walking, biking).
Perform stretches and core exercises to protect your back.
Strengthen the muscles that will be most challenged. Thighs: mini squats at a counter, or short wall slides. Shoulders: easy push ups against a wall. Work up to 3 sets of 10 if you are able.
Sharpen your balance for safety, and to prevent straining muscles with awkward ‘saves’.
Start off easy, and take frequent breaks. Stand up tall, and take short walks as needed to prevent stiffness.
Utilize equipment for increased gardening safety and ease, such as:
- Use wagons or small wheelbarrows to move heavier items.
2. Garden kneeler and seat (a place to rest and pad to protect your knees) (affiliate link)
3. Garden belt (limit walking back and forth for tools) (affiliate link)
4. Nonslip and ergonomic tools that protect your wrists (affiliate link)
Take some time to consider your safety and set up with these senior gardening tips:
There are many kits available now days to make large or small areas for raised bed garden plants at home. Consider the placement of a container if you need a wheelchair/walker to fit around or under, and take caution to not set it up where you will have to sit and twist your back while you garden.
Keep in mind that a moveable container with wet soil can be extremely heavy.
Use rails on your deck, carts, and tables to place plants at waist height.
Consider the safety of the pathways to and from your plants. Is it wide enough, smooth for fall prevention, well lit, and are there rails along ramps/steps?
Avoid twisting and bending with raking and sweeping. Maintain good posture and a tight core, keep your motions small and controlled.
Stay hydrated while gardening. As we age (and certain medications can contribute) we are more susceptible to over heating.
Use sunscreen and hats to protect your skin, but also limit time in the intense heat to protect your heart.
If you experience pain that doesn’t go away within a few days, it is best to see a health care professional sooner, rather than later. See this post for tips on quick relief from back pain.
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I would love to hear what you think! What other tips do you have, or exercises do you do to prepare for gardening? Subscribe to my blog for a few printable health organization FREEBIES, and senior health care information and tips!