Growing pains?: How to stop yourself getting injured while gardening – from essential exercises to the perfect posture

How to

One of the reasons gardening is such good exercise is that the sheer joy of it disguises how hard you’re working, so you end up exerting yourself more than you would at the gym. Scientific studies demonstrate this – not that I need proof. When I manage to steal a moment to prune a tangle of triffids, I have trouble stopping. Before I know it, I’ve been waving a chainsaw aloft on a pole for four hours.

The only downside is that the endless yanking, pushing, lifting and bending can lead to, or exacerbate, aches and pains. NHS Digital figures for 2020-21 (AKA the great lockdown gardening and DIY boom) record 12,355 admissions to hospital in England with injuries related to “overexertion and strenuous or repetitive movements”. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Madeline Hooper, a retired PR executive who lives in the Hudson Valley north of New York, reached a point where she could no longer ignore her sore neck. “I love gardening,” she says, “and it doesn’t matter how long it takes to weed the bed – I’m weeding the whole bed. But I had terrible neck and upper shoulder pain.” Being a can-do type, she sought help from personal trainer Jeff Hughes, whose simple, commonsense approach worked. The pair have now teamed up on a US TV show called GardenFit, in which they travel around America, admiring gardens while helping to educate the world about how to garden painlessly.

The first thing to know is that posture is everything. “If your head is back and your chest is puffed out and your shoulders are back and down, you feel tall and powerful,” says Hughes. “Whatever you do, you will incorporate the correct muscle, whereas when you hunch, you are incorporating muscles that aren’t designed to do that job. And that’s what we do when we get tired.”

When your shoulder gets tired of lifting your arm, stop lifting your damn arm

Hooper’s technique was a perfect example of this. “Your shoulder lifts your arm,” says Hughes, “and your trapezius lifts your shoulder. If you’re doing something all day and your shoulder gets tired of lifting your arm, your body’s smart. It goes: what else can lift the arm? All of a sudden your trapezius is doing something it wasn’t designed to do, and of course your neck is going to hurt.” The solution is simple: “When your shoulder gets tired of lifting your arm, stop lifting your damn arm!

“As soon as you start recognising that you can’t hold your posture correctly any more, do something on the ground, or grab the shovel and dig. Now you’re in going the opposite direction with your shoulders.”

British garden designer and TV presenter Danny Clarke follows a similar philosophy. “Keep swapping jobs,” he says. “I always say, ‘Little and often.’” He has his own sequence. “I don’t tear into the heavy lifting, or the digging. I’ll warm the body up by mowing.” Coming from a sports background, he says, “I’m quite aware of my body, and what it can and can’t do.” For some, a mental adjustment is required to let go of completing a task in one session. “Don’t try to finish it, because the garden is never finished,” says Clarke, serenely. “That’s the beauty of it: it is infinite. Savour each moment. Enjoy it.”

Sometimes strengthening exercises are required to correct pain-inducing posture – Hughes recalls a gardener called Bob, who appears in the TV show with lower-back pain. “He didn’t stand up straight when he walked,” says Hughes. “The lower back is holding up everything above it, so if you’re hunched over, it’s getting strained.”

If this sounds like you, you might want to try this. “Relax your shoulders,” says Hughes. “Imagine that you have on your favourite pair of blue jeans and I want you to very slowly take your shoulder blades and slide them down into your back pockets.” This creates a pivot effect, where your chest puffs out, you breathe more easily and your spine is aligned. While holding this, he adds, “whatever muscle is starting to get tired right now, that’s your weak muscle that you need to strengthen”. The longer you hold this posture, he says, the more training those weak muscles will get, eventually enabling them to do their job automatically.

To wake these muscles up in Bob, Hughes gave him an elastic exercise band to hold out in front like handlebars, and then raise above his head. The effect was immediate, with Bob marvelling at his newfound ability to stand up straight. “Your whole perspective changes,” says Hughes, “because now your peripheral vision is better.” Hughes prescribed Bob four weeks of practising his new posture, and briefly repeating some moves with his exercise band every day.

While you are working in your garden, allotment or community plot, with your shoulder blades in your back pockets, the next move to master is what Hooper and Hughes call “armchair”, which isn’t as restful as it sounds but could save your back when you are bending or lifting. “If you spread your feet, you’re automatically closer to the ground,” says Hughes. “Everything drops down, and when you bend, your knees and butt stick out and you come down into a good squat base.” Then you rest your arms on your legs. “Now your lower back isn’t holding your body up. If you apply that to the next eight hours, your back will be your best friend at the end of the day.”

When you use one arm for weeding or sowing, you can keep the other supporting arm resting on its leg, but switching arms is crucial. Hughes says it is essential to train your nondominant hand to do its fair share of the work. Not only will this spread the load on your arms and shoulders, but “you’re going to be balanced with your twisting; you’re starting to balance out your torso”. Similarly, if you’re on a ladder, he says: “Turn it around, so now you’re twisting the other way.”

Balance reappears in the pair’s final top tip, which they call the “seesaw” and involves, again, being more aware of your body while you are working. If you are reaching your arm out while holding heavy clippers, you need to counter that weight by holding the shoulder blade down, so that, says Hughes: “You can match the pressure here with the pressure there, like a little seesaw bounce effect.”

Hooper says that within four weeks of integrating Hughes’s fixes into her life, healthier habits had embedded themselves and she started to feel better. “After six weeks, I never had pain again from gardening.

“I wish I had learned this when I first started to garden,” says Hooper. In all the gardening courses and books she has completed, she says, “nobody teaches this”.

News Related


Ecuador's president says Indigenous leader is trying to stage a COUP as nationwide strike over gas prices descends into chaos with protesters hurling tear gas and brawling with cops

President Guillermo Lasso said Indigenous leader Leonidas Iza intends to 'overthrow Ecuador's government'But President Lasso added that he was willing to engage in talks on ending protests that were in their 13th dayThe demonstrations are part of a national strike to demand gasoline prices be cut by 45 cents a gallon to $2.10 Read more »

Truck plows through crowd of pro-choice protesters in Iowa leaving four people injured and demonstrators burn the American flag in Washington DC as activists gather across the US after SCOTUS overturned Roe v. Wade

The black pickup truck was driven slowly into the crowd in Cedar Rapids at 7:20pm on Friday nightActivists screamed at the driver to stop, as half a dozen protesters stood in his way, but he drove steadily onNo one appeared to be knocked to the floor or suffer life-threatening injuries, but one reportedly had their foot ran overAcross the nation on Friday evening, tens of thousands of people were taking to the streets to protest the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme CourtThe ruling means that access to abortion is no longer guaranteed for all Americans: as a result, three states on Friday immediately brought in abortion bans Read more »

How To Spend A Perfect Weekend In Minot, North Dakota

Things To Do In Minot Explore The Scandinavian Heritage Park See The Animals At The Roosevelt Park Zoo Visit The Dakota Territory Air Museum Head To The Craft Breweries Peruse ... Read more »

Samantha Jade reveals her mother's heartbreaking final moments before losing her battle with breast cancer

She released her latest single in memory of her late mother, Jacqueline Gibbs. And Samantha Jade revealed her mother’s heartbreaking final moments before she passed away from breast cancer in ... Read more »

40 Pearl Harbor Survivors To Attend 80th Anniversary Ceremony — How To Watch From Home

The Pearl Harbor Attack This Year’s Commemoration USS Nevada BB-36 Memorial Ceremony December 5, 1 p.m. HST/ 3 p.m. PST/ 6 p.m. EST USS Utah Sunset Memorial Ceremony December 6, ... Read more »

How to Play DVD on Windows 11 – WinX DVD Ripper Is a Feasible Way

Sponsored Although video streaming services are very popular now, some hardcore film buffs are still unwilling to let go of their DVDs. They keep them neatly stored on a shelf ... Read more »

How To Download And Use The PC Health Check App Windows 11?

There is no need to download the PC Health Check App for Windows 11. It is already present in your Windows 10 OS. This app aims to do a comprehensive ... Read more »

How To Spend A Day In Sausalito, California

Take A Bicycle On The Ferry Imagine Life On A Houseboat Visit The Old Marinship Shipyards See A Working Model Of The San Francisco Bay Spend Some Time On The ... Read more »

We 'signed' Marco Asensio for Liverpool and he became Jurgen Klopp's new Philippe Coutinho

Real Madrid are reportedly open to selling Spanish playmaker Marco Asensio this summer with Liverpool being linked to the 26-year-old. Liverpool have had a busy start to the transfer window, ... Read more »

How to Watch the Spider-Man Movies in Order

Not sure? Come swing through all the Spider-Man movies in chronological order with us! Read more »

Limo driver blamed for sending Australia's largest city into lockdown during the Covid pandemic opens up one year on: 'I've been treated like a criminal'

Limo driver Michael Podgoetsky, 63, was patient zero of the NSW lockdown He was hounded for months after sparking Delta outbreak that crippled NSW Now, the limo driver has opened up about how he was treated like a 'criminal'  Read more »

Video: Grieving elderly woman suffering from Parkinson's Disease misses her husband's funeral after a taxi booked for her two days earlier never showed up because of a driver's sneaky trick

Read more »

Collingwood star Mason Cox reveals the thing that still shocks him about Australia after becoming a citizen - and he still can't get his go-to Aussie saying right!

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Cox became a citizen at the MCG on WednesdayHe's been in Australia since 2014 after starring at the AFL International Combine Ruckman has revealed Aussie slang is hard for him to get used to  Read more »

How To Spend A Day At Montezuma National Monument

The Sinagua National Monument Montezuma Well Less than a mile off Arizona’s I-17 Highway, a centuries-old high-rise dwelling sits carved into the side of a limestone cliff. Its smooth terracotta-colored ... Read more »

Arsenal news: Higuain explains failed move and Jesus transfer statement

It may have taken some time for Arsenal supporters to fully overcome the disappointment of the end to last season. But it feels like the moving on process has begun ... Read more »

5 Common Travel Scams And How To Avoid Them

1. Broken Meter In The Taxi 2. Phony Police Officers 3. Free Gifts 4. The Attraction Is Closed 5. Guest WiFi Hubs 1. Broken Meter In The Taxi The Uber ... Read more »

How To Take A Shower When Flying In Economy Class

I’m not an elegant traveller. Are you? Anyone can enjoy a ‘Ninja Shower’ with some preparation A little bathroom time goes a long way I’m not an elegant traveller. Are ... Read more »

Richard Wilkins says he's 'proud' of son Christian for wearing a dress to the Logie Awards as he defends the young socialite: 'I am not ashamed of him!'

Richard Wilkins has come out to defend his son Christian after the 26-year-old was trolled online for wearing a backless dress to the Logie Awards last week. In an emotional ... Read more »

How To Get Cheap Broadway Tickets, And What To Expect At Your First Show

Be Open-Minded Be Flexible Sit Alone Compare Websites And Apps Visit The Discount Ticket Booth Join The Rush For Rush Tickets What To Expect At Your First Show When It ... Read more »

How To Spend A Day In The Latin Quarter Of Paris

Stroll By The Sorbonne Travel Back In Time To The Middle Ages At The Cluny Museum Browse The Shakespeare And Company Bookstore Pay Your Respects At The Paris Pantheon Enjoy ... Read more »

Truck plows through crowd of pro-choice protesters in Iowa leaving one person injured as tensions rise across the country after SCOTUS overturned Roe v. Wade

The black pickup truck was driven slowly into the crowd in Cedar Rapids at 7:20pm on Friday nightActivists screamed at the driver to stop, as half a dozen protesters stood in his way, but he drove steadily onNo one appeared to be knocked to the floor or suffer life-threatening injuries, but one reportedly had their foot ran overAcross the nation on Friday evening, tens of thousands of people were taking to the streets to protest the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme CourtThe ruling means that access to abortion is no longer guaranteed for all Americans: as a result, three states on Friday immediately brought in abortion bans  Read more »

Brian Laundrie's notebook murder confession revealed: Killer wrote that he did slaughter girlfriend Gabby Petito but bizarrely claimed it was only because she fell in a creek and was in 'extreme' pain

Pages from Brian Laundrie's notebook revealed that he killed girlfriend Gabby Petito allegedly out of mercy after an accident on their van-life adventure in Wyoming The infamous case triggered a manhunt for Laundrie after he returned to Florida alone and disappeared, with his body and the notebook found days later in a park creek The notes claim Petito, 22, got injured falling into a Creek at the Grand Teton National Park, with her condition deteriorating as she allegedly begged Laundrie for 'an end to her pain' Laundrie wrote that he was heartbroken over killing her, and planned to take his own life after rushing home  Read more »

Lizzo to donate $500K of tour proceeds to Planned Parenthood which Live Nation will match for total of $1million... after Roe v. Wade has been overturned

Lizzo announced that she will be donating $500K of her upcoming tour proceeds to Planned Parenthood and Abortion Funds just hours after Roe v. Wade was overturned The 34-year-old Detroit, Minnesota native - born Melissa Viviane Jefferson - made the announcement on her Instagram Story on Friday She also revealed that Live Nation has agreed to match her generous donation making it a grand total of $1million Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit organization that provides reproductive health care in the United States and globallyThe National Network of Abortion Funds builds power with members to remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access by centering people who have abortions and organizing at the intersections of racial, economic, and reproductive justiceOn Friday, the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization by a vote of 5-4Abortion was automatically outlawed in 18 US states as soon as Roe v. Wade was overturned, thanks to specially-devised 'trigger laws' and historic bans that were automatically reenacted after Friday's ruling  Read more »

How to get Legendary sailor Berald in Lost Ark

© Provided by GamePur Lost Ark players will need a ship to cross Arkesia’s vast oceans in pursuit of distant lands and new content. To man this ship, however, they’ll ... Read more »

How To Spend A Long Weekend In Quaint Ludington, Michigan

Things To Do In Ludington Take A Trip On The SS Badger Visit Ludington State Park Explore The Lighthouses Discover The Port Of Ludington Maritime Museum Explore The Waterfront Sculpture ... Read more »

Elderly woman suffering from Parkinson's Disease misses her husband's funeral after a taxi booked for her two days earlier never showed up

Woman missed the chance to attend husband's funeral after taxi failed to arriveKerrin Terry, 72, was ready to be picked up from her Sydney nursing homeThe taxi driver, who said they were on the way, decided to flash the fare It left Ms Terry unable to attend her husband Brian's funeral in person However, she was able to watch the service via live streaming Her daughter told A Current Affair: 'I think it's absolutely disgraceful' Read more »

How To Spend A Winter Day In Rocky Mountain National Park

What To Wear Stop At The Estes Park Visitor Center Visit The Rocky Mountain National Park Visitor Center Snowshoeing In And Around Rocky Mountain National Park View Wildlife In Moraine ... Read more »

Australian software giant Atlassian offers to fly its US employees to states where abortion is 'safe' after explosive Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision

US Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, abortion legality now state matterAustralian company Atlassian offers financial support to reach safe abortions Company extended its immediate offer to  the pregnant person and a companionCo-founder Mike Brookes-Cannon made the announcement on SaturdaySeveral companies censured by leading US senator for being pro-abortion Read more »

Honey Boo Boo finds it hard to trust Mama June after being forced to live with older sister: 'It's never nothing different'

Alana ‘Honey Boo Boo’ Thompson is struggling to repair the relationship with her mother, Mama June. In a new preview for the family’s reality TV show the 16-year-old star said ... Read more »

Lisa Curry shares a heartfelt tribute for late daughter, Jaimi, on what would have been her 35th birthday: 'We miss you every day'

Lisa Curry shared a heartfelt tribute for her late daughter, Jaimi, on what would have been her 35th birthday. Jaimi tragically died in 2020 after a long battle with alcohol ... Read more »

Johnny Depp's daughter Lily-Rose Depp is summery stylish in fluttery white dress out and about in LA

Johnny Depp’s daughter Lily-Rose Depp was summery stylish when she was spotted out in Los Angeles this week. The 23-year-old actress, who was born in the upscale Paris suburb Neuilly-sur-Seine, ... Read more »

Qatar 2022: The gems that would aim to win the Best Young Player Award in the upcoming FIFA World Cup

One of the chapters that comprise the book of stories and anecdotes that is a FIFA World Cup is that of those young stars who surprise the world with their ... Read more »

How To Have The Ultimate Ice Skating Experience On Canada’s Lake Louise

1. Bring Your Own Skates Or Rent Them There 2. Try Out The Game Canada Is Famous For 3. Pick Your Time To Go 4. Know How To Stay Warm ... Read more »

Video: Disney, JP Morgan, Meta and Netflix are among firms announcing they'll cover abortion expenses of employees who have to travel out of their home state for an abortion 

Read more »

Video: That's a cheeky reveal! Kesha unveils her noticeably rounder derriere as she performs in a thong and daring leather outfit at Pride in NYC

Read more »

Bukayo Saka future questioned amid Arsenal’s push to sign marquee Raphinha in huge transfer

It was the immediate secondary impact that came to mind when Arsenal were confirmed to be seriously interested in pursuing a deal for Raphinha. The Brazilian international is predominantly a ... Read more »

How to log out of Zalo account on Android phones

Zalo on Android – Is the number one messaging application for free Zalo used by most smartphone users. However, to ensure security, when you finish texting with this service, you ... Read more »

How To Have A Great Weekend In Buffalo, New York

Marvel At The Architecture Check Out Correspondence From Legendary Explorers Explore The Great Outdoors Take A Stroll Around Canalside Get Up And Close And Personal With Niagara Falls Eating In ... Read more »

Fresh blow for British holidaymakers as the cost of hiring a car abroad has TRIPLED in the three years since Covid first broke out

It will cost 110 per cent more than in 2019 to rent a car from July 30 to August 6The insurer site iCarhireinsurance studied six rental companies in 12 countriesToday’s crisis started in 2020 when rental firms began selling cars to survive Read more »

Could Priti be DEMOTED? Boris 'considers shuffling Home Secretary sideways to replace Oliver Dowden as Tory party chairman' amid Rwanda migrant row

The Home Secretary could be moved after Johnson's by-election pummellingShe is being touted again to become party chairman - replacing Oliver DowdenDowden quit after the losses in Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton on ThursdayPatel allies are said the calls for her to move are 'backhanded compliments'  Read more »