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Get Ready to Garden!

6 Simple Exercises to Prepare you for Spring

Spring officially arrived on March 20, but for many of us, the warm weather doesn’t arrive for another month. Patience may be a virtue, but it can be hard to wait during this “in-between” season when it’s too soggy to work in the yard and too early to plant. While anticipating those glorious spring days there are a few things we can do to prepare.

Weed Out the Aches and Pains

Gardening can be very therapeutic - lowering blood pressure and reducing stress - but it can also take a toll on the body, especially if you’ve been inactive. Even if you’ve been exercising and consider yourself fit, kneeling, bending, digging, pulling, and other motions needed for yard work can be a rude awakening for muscle groups that have been hibernating all winter, leaving you sore and achy.

“You want to be thinking about the kind of movement you’re going to do and make sure you’re strengthening those body parts, like your core, your back and your quadriceps,” says Christine Zellers, an assistant professor at Rutgers who teaches gardening and leads group exercise classes. “So you want to warm up just like you would if you were going for a run or doing an exercise class.”

You can avoid some pain and strain by warming up your muscles with these simple at-home exercises:

1. Hamstring Stretch and Knee to Chest Sequence

Flexible hamstrings take the strain off your lower back and allow you to bend and pull without injury. Meanwhile, the simple movement of bringing your knee to your chest will stretch out the muscles in your low back helping to prevent strain. (Note: This stretch is great to do after working in the yard, as well!)

  • Lie on your back with your legs straight.

  • Bring your right leg up and straighten in the air. (If your hamstrings are very tight, you can bend your left knee).

  • Gently clasp hands behind the thigh or knee pulling leg toward you.

  • Hold this stretch for 30 seconds keeping your leg as straight as you are able.

  • Repeat with left leg.

  • Next, bend your right knee and bring it toward your chest.

  • Pull knee toward your chest with hands and hold for 30 seconds.

  • Repeat three times with both legs.

Use a PhysioBoard to transform your bed into an effective, raised exercise surface.

2. Dumbbell Deadlift

This move mimics bending over to pull weeds or picking up a bag of soil or

compost. Practicing this move will strengthen your lower back and legs, as well as

your core.

  • Start by standing hip width apart and placing dumbbells on either side of you on the floor. (The weight of the dumbbells will depend on your strength and fitness level.)

  • Hinge at the hips, keeping back in a neutral position (never rounded), and place your hands on the dumbbells.

  • Maintain a straight back and engage your core while lifting weights and standing up straight. Push through the heels and tighten glutes as you stand.

  • Repeat the motion to lower weights back down to the floor and lift again.

  • Do 10-20 reps.

3. Chair Squats

When getting down and up from the ground or while carrying and pushing heavy

loads, you rely on your knees and thighs. Squats are a great way to strengthen


  • Place a sturdy chair behind you.

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and arms crossed over your chest or out in front of you. (Note: If you have problems with balance, you can perform this move using your hands for support.)

  • Slowly lower yourself to the chair as if you’re sitting down very slowly. It should take 3 full seconds.

  • As soon as your buttocks reach the chair (they should lightly touch) stand back up slowly.

  • Remember to stay toward the front of the chair.

  • Perform about 10-20 reps or until your thighs feel fatigued.

4. Planks

A strong core is very important for all types of movement, as well as proper

balance. Using your core or abdominals when lifting and carrying things protects

your lower back. While most people think of crunches for working the abs, planks

are the most efficient way to improve core strength. This move not only works your

abs, but also the lower and upper back muscles, and glutes.

  • Begin in the plank position, face down with your forearms and toes on the floor or raised exercise surface such as the PhysioBoard. Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders and your forearms should be facing forward. Keep your head relaxed, neck long and eyes looking at the floor. (Note: For a more advanced move, straighten arms.)

  • Engage your abdominal muscles, drawing your navel toward your spine. Keep your torso straight and rigid – your body should form a straight line from your ears to your toes with no sagging or bending. This is the neutral spine position.

  • Make sure your shoulders are down and not creeping up toward your ears.

  • Your heels should be over the balls of your feet.

  • Hold this position for 10 seconds, working up to 30, 45 or 60 seconds, and then release.

5. Push-ups

From pushing a mower to lifting heavy bags and planters and pulling out stubborn

weeds, yard work requires good upper body strength. Doing push-ups is one of the

best ways to strengthen this area.

  • Get down on all fours, placing your hands slightly wider than your hips.

  • Straighten your arms and legs.

  • Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor.

  • Pause and then push yourself back up.

  • Repeat 5-10 times, working your way up to 20.

  • (Note: You can also do a modified push-up with your knees bent.)

6. Woodchoppers

Rotational exercises are important because we often twist and turn to grab and pull

things when working in the garden. Woodchoppers can prepare our bodies for this

motion and help avoid low back strain. This exercise also strengthens your

abdominals and obliques, and improve flexibility in the spine.

  • Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell with both hands.

  • Rotate your torso to the right and raise the dumbbell until it’s over the right shoulder.

  • Squat as you rotate your torso to the left and bring the dumbbell diagonally across the body until it’s close to your left hip.

  • Repeat 10 times and then switch sides.

Practice these exercises three days a week for the next six weeks (just in time for planting season!) and you'll be ready to tackle spring chores and gardening without suffering from aches and pains.

Elevate Your Garden and Your Exercise Platform

For many people, getting down and up from the ground makes both gardening and exercising difficult. Thankfully, you don't have to give up either! Raised garden beds and ergonomic benches and tools can help you continue to garden without kneeling or excessive bending. But what about exercising?

There's no need to get down and up from the floor if you use a PhysioBoard. This lightweight (only 11 pounds) yet sturdy board turns your bed into an elevated exercise platform. The comfortable foam padding and washable cover create a perfect surface for exercising and stretching on your bed. When you're done exercising, simply remove PhysioBoard from your bed and store it in a closet or behind a door. It's less expensive and easier to store than an exercise bed and in many cases, more stable.

PhysioBoard transforms your bed into an effective platform for exercising and stretching.

"I use my PhysioBoard almost every day to exercise and stretch my lower back," says Mary, age 82. "Getting down on the floor is no longer safe for me, but PhysioBoard allows me to continue to exercise and stretch, which keeps me pain free, mobile and independent."

"We were going to invest in an exercise bed since neither my husband nor I can get up and down from the floor to do our exercises, but they are expensive and take up too much space. Then our therapist recommended the PhysioBoard," remarked Donna, age 72. "It’s light enough to move from the bed to the closet and is strong enough to allow both of us to do our exercises safely. We both feel so much better when we do our recommended exercises and stretches."

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