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Stretches for Gardeners

Prevent Injury whilst gardening.

The best way, is to continue gardening all year through but if like most of us you pack the garden up for the winter, then you should replace the activity with alternative exercises such as regular Pilates, Yoga or a trips to the gym.

Warming up before you start is essential.

IF you have health concerns or previous injuries please seek medical advice before venturing further.

Warm up your body before you embark on a stretching routine. Walk briskly for 5-10 minutes before stretching. You can jog or run on the spot if you are fitter. Follow this with a 10 minute stretching routine and this will go a long way to preventing sore, strained and injured muscles. The muscles and tendons associated with the spine are designed for movement. If you don’t use them they lose their ability to perform. Hence, they need to be stretched every day to perform optimally. Stretches should be performed pre, during and post gardening. Pre to prepare the muscles to kick into action, during to prevent trigger points and soreness from developing due to repetitive motions and post to prevent stiffness and excessive soreness setting in. Stretching should be done in a calm, smooth, gentle non jerky fashion. Never bounce the stretch. Breathe slow and deep, don’t hold your breath. If anything causes pain STOP immediately. The stretch should feel like resistance NOT pain and when you get familiar with the process you can hold them until the resistance eases and increase the stretch.

Good all round Stretch routine.

Reach for the stars ‘I am a tree’.

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Reach both arms up so that your hands are at least as wide as your feet. Reach for the stars straight up. Hold for a few seconds 2.5sec. If you want to take this a little further push your hands up to the sky and back slightly arching your back (Mindfulness or yoga teachers might suggest you imagine you are a tree and that your roots go down in the ground and your branches reach for the stars). Now with feet still hip distance apart and lean forwards to reach for your toes. DON’T bounce.

Trunk Rotation.

Again stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Using a long handled gardening tool eg a broom or rake, hold it behind you either at waist in your hands or at shoulder height in your elbows. Rotate your body, within your comfort levels to the left and hold for up to 5 sec. Now repeat on the other side.

Shoulder and upper back stretch.

If you have a tree or post to hold onto you can link your hands around to aid this stretch. If not bring your arms out straight in front of you at shoulder height. Turn your fingers in to link them. Now push your arms away from you. When you think you have pushed them as far as you can for 20-30 secs push just a little further rounding your upper back.

Arm, Chest and shoulder stretch.

You will need a door way, corner or end of a tall wall for this one. Stand side on to the wall. Take your arm closest to the wall and link your fingers around the edge. Turn your hips and shoulders away from your arm until you feel a stretch in the muscles of the arm and chest. You can move the arm up and down to stretch different parts of the arm and chest. Hold each position for 5-10 sec. Repeat on the other side. Follow by simple forward and backward shoulder rolls 2-5 repetitions.

Calf stretch (back of the lower leg).

Place your toe against the wall with the heel of your foot on the ground. Place both your hands flat on the wall at shoulder height and lean in towards the wall. You should be able to feel a stretch in the calf of the foot with the toe on the wall. OR Hands in the same position arms straight, step back with one leg, push that heel to the ground and lean towards the wall. Hold for 20-30 sec. Repeat on the other leg.

Hamstring (back of the upper leg).

If you have stairs in the house this is a great place to do this as you can progress up the stairs until you feel the stretch. Place the heel of your foot on the bottom step to start with, steady yourself on the wall or bannister or both, keep your back straight. If you don’t feel a pull in the thigh either flex your toe towards you or if this is still not enough go up to the next step. Hold 20-30 sec and repeat on the other side.

Quads (front of thigh).

Steady yourself with the hand of the opposite side to be stretched on a wall or steady feature in the garden tree, fence post etc. Raise the heel of the leg to be stretched towards your buttock and grasp the foot with the hand on the same side. Keep both knees level and together and push the hip slightly forward. Hold for 20-30 sec. Repeat on the other side.


Seated, place the ankle of your right leg on the knee/ lower thigh of the left leg. Allow the weight of the leg to relax the right knee towards the floor. Looking down you should see a figure of ‘4’.If this is easy put some gentle pressure on the right knee, count to 5. Repeat on the other side.

Good sense.

Regularly change what you do. Take breaks. Stretch out the areas that have been worked in between jobs. Stay hydrated, drink often not just when you feel thirsty. Make sure your tools fit you, don’t use overly heavy or large tools for your stature. Don’t grip tools over tightly. Try to use both sides of the body equally eg when digging routinely alternate the digging foot.

For encouragement to get the job done visualise the end product and how you will enjoy it. Gardening will in itself keep you fit and mobile, but additional keep fit and wellness regimes will help you to keep going for many years.

Additional information here.


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