Growing Pains

Posted on September 29, 2014

woman gardeningIt's official: Gardening is good for you. Even if you feel like you never get anywhere with the weeding.

Digging, raking, mowing and planting have all been shown to help cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes(i), with leading healthcare professionals offering encouragement to anybody tempted to get their pruning gloves on.

Raising heart rate

Christopher Allen, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "As long as they make you feel warmer, breathe harder and make your heart beat faster, activities such as DIY and gardening count towards the 150 minutes of moderate intensity (weekly) activity recommended for a healthy lifestyle."

And it gets better. While gardening can be great for your cardiovascular health it's also been shown to be good for your mental health.

Research shows that smelling roses and pulling up weeds can lower blood pressure, increase brain activity and produce a general feeling of wellbeing.

In fact, just looking at a garden can give you a boost, and the health benefits are so compelling that gardening as a way to health and wellbeing has been given its own name - horticultural therapy(ii).

Feel great while gardening

All in all if you're looking to stay healthy and want to benefit from the meditative benefits of gardening, why not get your gloves on? Just make sure you don't go in too hard after a winter spent making plans from the kitchen window.

Osteopaths report a spike in gardening-related injuries during Spring and early Summer(iii), as green fingered enthusiasts over exert themselves at the first sign of new green shoots.

That's made all the more problematic by the fact that many gardening activities will lead to niggles and strains caused by uneven exertion, with weeding, pruning and raking being the main culprits.

So, with back and joint pain one of the biggest blights of the would-be gardener, here we offer a few tips on avoiding some of the aches and pains they most commonly suffer:

Beat back pain

Use tools with long handles to help reduce stretching, and try using hoses so you can avoid lugging heavy watering cans around the place. If you're moving heavy objects, or using heavy tools for long periods, try alternating the hands you use them with, so your lower back doesn't suffer too much strain put on one side. Digging, pruning and raking are all culprits, so try to mix it up. The BBC have a great guide for gardeners who are prone to back pain.

Be kind to your knees

Ask any gardener and they'll tell you that knees are prime candidates for aches and pains. All sorts of jobs require you to kneel down, so it's a good idea to invest in a foam kneeling pad, or kneepads, to help avoid any discomfort when you're carrying out odd jobs in your garden.

Lift the right way

Don't lift more than you can manage, and always lift it the right way. Bend your knees, not your back, and try and maintain good posture when sitting to carry out tasks.

Take a look at the NHS lifting guide for more information.

Simplyhealth's Simply Cash Plan helps you to budget for the cost of visiting an osteopath, physiotherapist, chiropractor and health professionals who can help you manage your aches and pains. Take a look at our Simply Cash Plan for more information.