Avoid Garden Injuries

Triangle Gardener podcast logoGardeners are more likely to end up in the Emergency Room come spring. Fitness expert Jennifer Wrigley offers ways for gardeners to stay fit over the cold months and avoid injury.

For more information on help for your hurting hands see this article posted in Triangle Gardener.

Thanks to Garden Destinations for making this story possibleGarden Destinations



You’ve heard those reports —about how good gardening is for you.  But there’s a dark side to our gardens too.

I’m Lise Jenkins and this is the Triangle Gardener show. We’re your guide to enjoyable gardening in North Carolina.

Thanks to  Garden Destinations for making this story possible. Garden Destinations is a  digital magazine for travelers who want to include public gardens in their travel plans. Their website is GardenDestinations.com.


I’ll admit it, I’m a little smug about gardening. What other activity is good for the environment and me and can produce healthy food and beautiful flowers. Every time another study comes out showing the psychological or physical benefits of gardening I’m sure to point it out to my friends who are runners or play a sport. And I won’t even mention what I do to the my friends who stay inside with their DIY crafts and projects.

But its a bit of a lie. Gardening can be really dangerous, and I’ve had my share of cuts and scrapes. At a recent event I asked some of my Master Gardener friends if they’ve ever been hurt gardening


Have you ever been hurt in your garden? I was cutting down some small trees and it kicked back on me and I cut my leg to the bone and had to go to the emergency room and have 20 stitches.

Have you ever been hurt in your garden? Not in the garden actually, I was stepping all around it hanging up a hummingbird feeder. What happened? The ladder broke. What happened? I broke my wrist.


In a couple of months we’ll be in the danger zone. According to the Center for Disease Control emergency room admissions surge in the spring.

There are three things you can do right now to try to prevent being one of those Emergency Room admissions.

First, use the right tool for the job and make sure your tools are ready to be used.  This is a good time of year to clean and service your tools. Sharp blades cut easier and you won’t have to exert as much force to get the job done.

Make sure your tools are right for you. Handles should fit comfortably in the center of your palm where your grip strength is the best and you want to be able to keep your wrist in a neutral position when you’re using them.

Second, develop safe habits. Wear shoes and gardening gloves.  If you are using power tools put on ear and eye protection too.  Keep walkways clear and pick up your tools as you go along.

Finally, and most importantly, keep yourself fit so you’re able to tackle those garden chores when the weather warms up.

Staying active during the cold months is a challenge for me. So I talked with the Wellness Director at our fitness center to learn what I can do to stay ready for my garden.


My name is Jennifer Wrigley.


I like what you said about making things easy.  What are things I can do to stay toned so when I get out to the garden come spring I’ll be able to do so.


The first thing to do is to make sure you are warmed up properly. So if you have a house that has no stairs maybe walking around the inside of the house ten times trying to get your heart rate up, your muscles warm.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a set of stairs in your house, going up and down the stairs maybe ten times is a great way to warm up as well.  Once your body is properly warmed up we’d want you to do some dynamic stretches. All that means is the stretches are moving.  We want them to be nice and slow and controlled.

For gardening we would want you to do a dead lift, which is almost like a toe touch.  Keep your back really straight, keep your stomach muscles engaged.  Only go as far down as your body allows.  Then standing straight up.  That will imitate a lot of the things you do in the garden. When you’re pulling weeds, putting bushes in the ground.  Things like that.


How often would I need to do this?


Well the government really suggests you exercise every day for a minimum of 30 minutes.  We want this exercise to be hard enough that you’re not able to have a long conversation with someone.  Maybe short conversation.  On a scale of 1 to 10 we want the exercise to be about a 7 or 8. You really want to do this, I’d like 5 times a week if you could. But if you’re just starting out set a goal which is achievable.  Maybe it’s three times a week, every other day.  As you’re adherence increases add a fourth day. Don’t try to be a hero and go out 7 days a week, you’ll get hurt, you won’t stick with the program.


I hear you say don’t just get up off the couch and start working.  Is that why it’s important to warm up?


Stretching is really important.  If you’ve been sitting a long time the muscles will contract. If you’re cold the muscles will contract. So we want the muscles to be more pliable. Imagine if you took a rubber band and put it in a freezer and then pulled it out of the freezer and tried to stretch it. It would break.  If you let it come to room temperature and even warmed it up it’s much more pliable.  And that’s the same with your muscles.  So going through small ranges of motion to begin with; maybe a standing up and marching in place and then eventually bringing your knees up higher, and maybe even taking it to a front kick.  Again very nice and easy and controlled. Then we’ve just gone from a very small move to a medium move to a larger move.  And we would want to do that with all of your muscle groups.


I think you’ve given me some things I can do. Anything else I should do this winter?


I think we want to give you specific exercises that relate to gardening.

Again, I mentioned the deadlift which is like touching your toes. You can choose to carry weight or not depending on your fitness level.

Another thing to try is imagine you are picking up a big bag of mulch and carrying it in front of your stomach. If you have something in the house that weighs maybe 5 or 10 or 15 pounds try carrying that around the house.  Or even putting it on your back in a back pack. That’s a safe way to increase the difficulty of your exercises.  You would never want to put weights on your hands or ankles.

Another exercise to do that would be great would be a push up just to get your chest muscles and your shoulder muscles strong.

A bent over row.  So if you have something in the house which weighs 5 or 8 or 10 pounds you would lean over and maybe support yourself with one hand, put the weight in the opposite hand and pull it from the floor up to your hip, like you’re starting a lawn mower.  That would be another good exercise.

Doing a shoulder press.  Which means taking something as simple as a soup can and taking it from your shoulders and pushing it as high into the air as you can. That would imitate maybe pruning a tree.  And of course once you’re done with all of those we want you to stretch and get those muscles nice and long and flexible.


These are great exercises.  I can do these in my house with lots of simple things. Thank you.


You’re very welcome.


I’m Lise Jenkins and this is the Triangle Gardener show. We’re your guide to enjoyable gardening in North Carolina.   You can also find this and other episodes of our podcast on our website TriangleGardener.com, iTunes, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening.





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