Physical Therapists Offer Tips for Healthy Gardening

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Conshohocken Physical Therapy stresses safe gardening and points out several health benefits.

Conshohocken Physical Therapy garden

Weeping Cherry in Bloom

Gardening strengthens nearly all of the muscles of your body with the movements involved in planting, weeding, maintaining...

As we enjoy the unusually warm spring weather, many are also looking forward to springing back into the garden. A place where plants, veggies and flowers thrive, a garden is also where people of all ages, fitness levels and shades of green thumb can enjoy physical activity. As with all types of exercise, there is a risk of injury if done improperly. According to Conshohocken Physical Therapy (CPT), it is important that gardeners take a health-conscious approach to both prevent injuries and reap the health rewards of gardening.

"Many gardeners injure themselves because they don’t view gardening as a workout," says CPT President, Desirea D. Caucci, PT, DPT. "Gardening is a strenuous activity and it is very easy for people to overdo it, especially for seniors or those who have pre-existing conditions, limited mobility or who are normally inactive."

Common gardening tasks, such as digging, planting, weeding, mulching and raking can cause stress and strain on muscles and joints, primarily in the shoulders, back, neck and knees. CPT recommends the following tips to minimize the risk of injury:

  • Warm up before you begin. Get your heart rate up by taking a 10-minute walk followed by some stretches for your upper and lower back, neck, arms and legs. Roll your shoulders back in a circular motion and slowly move your head from side to side a few times to loosen up.
  • Don’t overdo it. Be mindful of how your body feels. If you experience an aching back or neck, then slow down and stretch or stop and switch to a different task.
  • Use a garden cart or wheelbarrow to move tools and heavy planting materials.
  • Don’t kneel on both knees. Keep one foot on the ground to give your back more stability. If you have to kneel, use knee pads or a pillow to absorb some of the pressure.
  • Change positions and take frequent breaks to avoid stiffness or cramping.
  • Start with smaller projects and build gradually. Don’t try to do it all at once.
  • Practice proper body mechanics. Bend at your knees when you grab something or pull a weed, bend your knees and contract your abdominal muscles to avoid straining your back.
  • End your gardening session with a short walk or some light stretching. Take a warm bath or shower to help prevent next-day soreness.
  • If you experience pain, contact your physical therapist.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the physical benefits of gardening:

  • Burns approximately 272 calories per hour (the same amount of calories in about one Grande Starbucks caffe latte, ½ of a Big Mac, 3 ½ glasses of wine, one snickers bar, 1.3 cans of Coke, or 9 carrots).
  • Strengthens nearly all of the muscles of your body with the movements involved in planting, weeding, maintaining, etc. You are exercising and not even realizing it!
  • Being outdoors allows you to soak up vitamin D from the sun’s rays. Vitamin D is vital to keeping your bones strong and for promoting immune function. Be sure to protect your skin from burning by applying sun-screen prior to gardening and staying in shady areas whenever possible.

Improving your home’s landscape also provides the benefit of increasing the value of your home. The landscapes you create are an artistic expression for you and others to enjoy each and every day. It provides an instantaneous uplifting feeling that brightens your day and an ongoing feeling of pride in the beauty that you have created. It assists nature in attracting beautiful insects, like butterflies for pollination, and you get the added pleasure of having them around. If vegetable gardens are your preference, the bounty of vegetables and herbs are the reward for your taste buds and for your pocketbooks!

If you are unable to garden outdoors, you can always bring the outdoors in to get the benefit of year-round enjoyment. Houseplants also serve to improve the air quality in your home.
Physical Therapists are motion experts.  They help improve or restore the mobility you need to move forward with your life.

Conshohocken Physical Therapy(CPT) is a private practice delivering high quality, evidence-based care to improve their patients’ quality of life. They have been voted the “Best Physical Therapy Practice in Montgomery County, PA,” multiple times. Owner, Dr. Desirea D. Caucci, PT, DPT, has been named one of the top 3 Physical Therapists in the nation by Advance Magazine (2008) and has been honored as the national winner of the Dorland Health People Award for Physical Therapy (2010). They have also created a breakthrough iPad application for pain prevention - “Motion Doctor”. Their mission is to promote physical therapy on a grand scale and make a positive impact, both personally and therapeutically, on every person who enters their office. For more information please email bcaucci(at)conshypt(dot)com or visit

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