Gardening Relief: Back and Shoulder Stretches

Gardening in the same position for too long can strain your muscles and joints. Try these back and shoulder stretches for instant relief.

| May 2013

Gardener's Fitness by Barbara Pearlman, published by Taylor Publishing

“Gardener’s Fitness” by Barbara Pearlman provides a complete guide to keeping fit and staying healthy while making your garden grow.

Cover Courtesy Taylor Publishing

Gardener’s Fitness (Taylor Publishing, 1999) is a practical, easy-to-follow manual  for gardeners that includes conditioning exercises, postural guidance, therapeutic stretches and more designed to relax tired muscles and restore energy after laboring the garden. Gardening takes a toll on the back and shoulders. Take breaks between hard garden work and try these back and shoulder stretches to relax and restore your muscles. This excerpt is taken from chapter 3, “Stop…Stretch…and Smell the Roses.”

Pacing yourself, and knowing when to take a break for a stretch or breather, is far more important than knowing the Latin name for lamb’s ear or the difference between hot and cold compost. So here’s a horticultural mantra to chant while you plant: “Don’t kvetch. Stop and stretch!”

While you work at your chores, your body (not unlike your plants) sends out signals—these signals should be heeded. Instead of holding out until you can’t straighten out (or up) because you’ve been locked in a position for too long, garden sense says stop for a stretch from time to time.

Gardening without occasional time-outs can potentially tax your muscles and joints; this is true even if you’re agile and limber. Just think about it: some of the twisted and distorted positions you end up in (often with your end up) are nothing less than acrobatic feats. But these positions can stress and strain your body.

That’s only part of the problem. Muscular fatigue and soreness also result from remaining in one position for too long or from repeating the same movement over and over, such as clenching your hand when you weed. And that’s exactly why my rule of thumb (green or otherwise) is this: from time to time stop gardening and start stretching.

Time-Out: Back and Shoulder Stretches

Let’s begin with back fatigue that results, for instance, when you work in a forward bend for an extended time. I don’t mean only when you’re standing up; strain occurs as well when you work close to the ground with your back rounded for too long, or when you actually work on the ground, stretching and reaching too far for too long in any direction.

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