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Wednesday March 4th, 2020 - 7.00 p.m.
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As absorbing and pleasurable as gardening is, let’s be honest – it requires stamina and can be demanding on the knees, back and wrists. Many of us outdoor green-thumbs have a comfy kneeling pad amongst our supplies and tools.

While some garden tasks are performed standing up, many require prolonged kneeling or squatting, in addition to a forward leaning (spinal flexion) position, which can quickly fatigue the muscles of the trunk.

Getting the body used to being in these positions is important before spring planting intensity reaches its peak. Even people who are regularly physically active can feel stiff and sore after their first full day of working in the garden. By age 40 most people experience a gradual decline in strength, flexibility, lean tissue mass, collagen production and cartilage density. Without the intervention of regular physical activity, this sets one up for sarcopenia, joint pain and even osteoporosis.

Adding some basic muscle conditioning and mobility exercise to the daily routine will go a long way to make the physical demands of gardening easier and more enjoyable. One doesn’t have to become an athlete, join a gym or invest a big chunk of time. 20 minutes a day is plenty! Of course if you are accustomed to more vigorous workouts, you may already be incorporating several of the below-listed components into your routine.
Functional training (you’ve probably heard that term before: it just means training that has useful carryover to day to day life) for gardeners would include squatting exercises which can also be done with the assistance of a chair or a wall, torso rotation exercises such as supine or seated spinal twists, shoulder mobility to include lifting the arms in all directions, rotator cuff maintenance (a light exercise band or tubing is great for this!), pulling exercises such as a rowing movement where the core muscles are braced, spinal extension strengthening such as the “low cobra” yoga pose, strengthening of the torso musculature via a forearm or straight arm plank position where the knees can be on or off the ground (build up to at least a 30 second-hold and then aim for a whole minute ), and gentle stretching for hamstrings (back of upper legs) and hip flexors (front hip crease).

While we stay connected virtually, I would be happy to answer any questions about physical conditioning: just shoot me an email. Perhaps the extra time at home this season will mean some truly magnificent and deeply satisfying gardens, starting with the joy of digging into the soil and knowing that one’s body is ready to assist.

Laurie Smith, new-ish WVGC member, is a registered Medical Exercise Specialist since 1999 and a certified Health Coach with the American Council on Exercise. She can be reached via email at: