Gardening has a multitude of health benefits. Since most people find enjoyment in gardening, they do it regularly without any coaxing or aiding in cardiovascular health, strength, and flexibility. One’s immunity is also boosted as skin soaks in vitamin D from the sun and healthy bacteria and microbes from the soil. Gardens are full of a variety of textures, smells, sights, and sounds which have been known to reduce stress and promote relaxation as it stimulates the brain and aids in better mental health. Lastly, we cannot forget nutrition and all the amazing vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are provided to us when we consume all the fresh produce we harvest. It’s no wonder that gardening appeals to the young, the old, and everyone in between.
1) Raise it up.
If you have trouble bending, why not do a raised bed, grow bags, pots, hanging baskets, or even a straw bale garden? These can all give you some height while saving your back at the same time.
2) Have your knees started to talk back to you?
Consider an elevated and cushioned kneeler/seat combo, which also has arm rests giving you some leverage for getting back up. You can also go fancy with a wheeled scooter that has a swivel seat so you minimize strain and don’t have to kneel.
3) Is lifting and carrying becoming a challenge?
If so, you may want to try a wheeled cart, wagon, or wheelbarrow to help transport your gardening supplies. Also, use those forearms for more support and keep objects close to the body to minimize strain. Smaller loads will also make things easier.
4) Are watering cans too much of a strain for your hands or your arms?
An easy solution is a lightweight garden hose with an attached wand, which will definitely help to decrease the workload and demand. You can also consider soaker hoses to cut down on effort as well as water usage.
5) Has gripping become a problem?
One option is to buy foam pads that you can place on your gardening tools, allowing for a wider grip should you be having issues with dexterity. You can also free up your hands by utilizing a gardening or tool belt to help carry all of you gardening accessories.
6) Is endurance an issue?
Take a moment to pre-plan before you go into the garden so you are not wasting time going back and forth to make multiple trips. Another option is to work in smaller chunks of time. Rather than spending 45 minutes in the garden. Go out for 5 or 10 minutes in the morning, afternoon, and evening gardening for a shorter duration but slightly greater frequency to conserve some energy. Work smarter, not harder.
7) Is weeding or soil prep becoming too much of a chore?
A variety of labor saving and ergonomic tools now exist which are lightweight and longer to help maximize your reach while minimizing your effort, which you may find beneficial. Another solution is to do a thick layer of mulch with straw, leaves, or even wood chips as it inhibits weed growth, minimizes watering requirements, and improves the soil as it breaks down while attracting earthworms that help fertilize and aerate soil naturally.
8) Are you lacking hand strength?
You may want to move away from manual shears or clippers for an electric variety requiring less effort. However, do be wary of the vibration component that could cause repetitive stress if used for too long of a duration. You can also recruit a gardening buddy to help assist with those tasks that are too demanding.
9) Is altered balance becoming a safety concern?
Why not move your garden out of the yard that is an uneven surface and onto a solid surface such as a deck, porch or patio. There is a large variety of planters, decorative pots, and grow bags which can satisfy your gardening needs but keep you safer at the same time. You could even elevate your garden to a railing or table by using specialized planters and containers made for this purpose.
10) Feeling too ill, limited or painful to do any garden tasks?
In some instances, gardening will not be feasible at home so head out to a local park, community garden, arboretum, botanical garden or conservatory to get your fix. You still get the beauty, serenity, and sensory stimulation without the work while creating more of a social event as you interact with other likeminded patrons or gardening enthusiasts which can still give a healthful boost to the body, mind, and spirit.
As a physical therapist and fellow gardener I hope these ideas presented help to get you back out into and enjoying your own garden or someone else’s. If you have any other, helpful suggestions please don’t hesitate to share in the comments below. If you are a visual person like myself then head over to Gardener’s Supply Company, one of my personal favorite gardening sites, to see actual pictures of the tools and products discussed above. Happy gardening!
By Lori Diamos for Athletico