Gardening can be a physical activity involving a lot of bending and squatting. In previous posts we have talked about the issue of repeated bending and the impact of this on the lower back. To avoid problems occurring with the lower back it is recommended you squat rather than repeatedly bend. This is a great way of protecting your lower back, however it does place much more emphasis on your knees, highlighting the importance of knee and leg strength.
Your legs house some of the largest muscle groups in your body, and your knees are hinge joints, designed to provide stability during movement in the leg as you walk, climb stairs, or whatever it is you like to do including gardening. The muscles surrounding your knee joints play a critical role in controlling the stress and strain on those joints. Weak muscles allow excessive stresses leading to pain, discomfort and swelling.
Additionally, knees are also easily affected by the strength of the muscles further up the chain around the hips. Weakness around the hips can adversely affect joints further down the chain of which the knee often becomes the main victim. Keeping all the muscles around both joints – the hips and knees – will help you to maintain good general strength allowing you to continue gardening at length and reduce risk of pain and discomfort.
A few other things that are worth noting:
- Changing your position often as you garden is helpful so you avoid overloading one aspect of your body continuously which can increase your risk of injury. One way to help change positions is to use knees pads while gardening. Knee pads will protect your knees from excessive forces so you can kneel in the garden. It allows you to change positions from squatting to kneeling or kneeling on one leg then the other so you can change your position often without causing discomfort. A few hours in the garden means you adopt different positions and reduce that awkward lower back stiffness that comes from bending forward for too long as you tug at those tenacious weeds.
- A good gardening motto is – “the best posture is the next posture”
- A few daily exercises strengthening the legs in a safe way, will help you to get up and down and move around the garden more easily. As I mentioned in earlier gardening posts, squatting and lunging are great ways of not only preserving your back but also helping your knees and legs to be much stronger. Squatting properly is important so here are a few tips about the correct way of squatting and lunging:
- Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart and your arms out in front of you and held horizontal to the floor.
- Bend your knees and hips pushing your hips back behind you and leaning your body forwards, as though you are about to sit on the chair. Make sure you are bending from the hips not the back.
- Do not allow your knees to travel in front of your toes. Keep the middle of your knee cap in line with your 2nd toe. Keep your weight on your heels, not your toes.
- At the bottom of the squat, tense your buttocks, lift and straighten your legs back up to the start position.
- Start in a standing position and your arms by your sides or on your hips. Take a large step forward and keep your trunk upright, bend your front knee to 90 degrees and drop your hips directly down between both feet. Keep your back leg stretched out behind you.
- Ensure you take a large enough step that your front knee does not travel over your foot and keep your knee in line with your foot.
- Push back up to the starting position and repeat with the other leg.
Hope this helps your gardening experience!