Are you ready and excited about the gardening season starting? Gardening and all things “green thumb” have really picked up in popularity in the last few years with more people picking up new hobbies and finding new, fun ways to fill their time. There’s something so satisfying about planting something, caring for it, and soon after seeing the “fruits” of your labour! No matter your skill or knowledge level surrounding gardening, there’s something for everyone; with the internet, there is more information than ever before and many plants are easy to tend to and don’t require a botanist degree!
Benefits of Gardening
- Grounding: Being outside and touching the earth/dirt with your bare feet or hands is a practice known to be very grounding or earthing. From your cells to your nerves, trillions of electrical impulses are being emitted in your body every minute. All your movement, thoughts, behaviors and actions are powered by these impulses. The Earth itself is also electrically charged, meaning when you, a bioelectrical human being, make direct contact with the ground, you are absorbing a steady flow of electrons into your body. These electrons have an antioxidant effect that helps restore your body’s natural balance. Even short periods of time engaging in this activity yield significant health benefits. (Read a blog on earthing here)
- Fresh Air and Vitamin D: Gardening takes you outside, away from the AC and underneath the sun. While it’s important to care for your skin with regard to sun exposure and do things like wear a wide-brimmed hat, vitamin D is an essential nutrient for people. Not only is vitamin D important for our physical body, but it is exceptionally important for our mental wellbeing as well.
- Clean, Whole Foods: Consider letting your gardening adventures lead you towards planting vegetables, fruits, and/or herbs. When you harvest from these plants you can feel confident about the quality of food you’re then cooking with. Not only does it feel good to eat something you worked hard for, but it also puts you at ease to know what you are consuming has been nurtured without chemicals. Additionally, home-grown food just tastes better!
How to Garden While Being Mindful of Your Body
- Warm-up before beginning: I’m serious! You may be thinking, come on Dr. Nathalie, gardening is not a workout. But in a way, it truly is. You should take just a few minutes before gardening to warm up your body. You can take a brisk 5-minute walk, do some general joint movements (like shoulder and hip rotations as well as back flexion and extension) and general stretches of the muscles you’ll be using. This simple warm-up will help mitigate tension afterward. Check out one of my warm-up videos here.
- Get Support From Kneelers and Chairs: Being on the ground, especially with your knees or ankles bent in weird ways, can be uncomfortable for many people, especially if you already struggle with flexibility and/or back pain or knee pain. Kneelers can help you get up and down, usually include a well-cushioned base and often convert to a low chair. This suggestion is not age-specific, allowing for more comfort while gardening is going to be of benefit to everyone!
- Lift with Support: Be intentional about lifting ergonomically; begin by squatting and not bending at your waist. Use both hands to hold the object, keeping it close to your body, and slowly straighten your legs as you stand. This will help dramatically with preventing back injury or back pain.
- Take Frequent Breaks: I know it’s easy to lose track of time when you’re doing something you enjoy. You need to stay hydrated and take frequent breaks, even if it’s just to walk around the backyard a few times or stretch out your muscles. It’s easy to just get in a groove while gardening so consider setting timers on your phone to remind you to take a break.
- Cool-down: Just like warming up, it’s important to cool down in some form after gardening, especially if you’re out there for a while. Take a few minutes to stretch again after you’re finished. You can also apply ice/heat compresses if there’s an area on your body that is sore. A nice warm Epson salt bath (high in magnesium) can also do the trick in helping to relax your tense and aching muscles as well as help you get a great sleep.
- Get Adjusted: Last but certainly not least, don’t forget your regular check-up and adjustments by your chiropractor. I love when patients are active as I often like to remind them that when it comes to our mobility, we need to “use it if we don’t want to lose it”. Despite following all of the tips above, you may find you are still needing some assistance with your alignment, pain and mobility.
Hopefully these tips and tricks:
- get you thinking about gardening if you weren’t already, and
- give you a good roadmap to gardening in a way that will be most beneficial to your body.
Let us know in the comments below your favourite things to plant. Happy gardening!