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Returning to outdoor activity safely

By Physical Therapists Julie Grabandt, MSPT, OCS, LAT and Julie Tashner, PT at the Orthopedic Institute at Southwest Health.

It’s official, the nice weather we’ve all been waiting for is here. With nicer weather, we tend to move more and do more outside, encountering different activities and body movements that we have not performed in a few months.  We work in our outdoor gardens, clean out the garage, perform yard work, and do more outdoor play.  Unfortunately, with these activities we can find ourselves in body positions and using varying techniques with lifting that can cause harm to our bodies.  There are many different ways to participate in outdoor activities that will limit your risk for injury.

The key to all activity with pushing and pulling, such as raking and mowing, is to avoid reaching far away from the body and twisting through the upper body.  You should always maintain good posture and move your feet instead of twisting at the low back.  A good tip for this is to keep your nose lined up between your toes at all times.

When the weather’s nice we also clean out the garage and perform heavier lifting than we are used to doing.  This can put you at risk for injuring your low back if proper body mechanics are not used.  When lifting it is best to keep objects close to your body and lift with your legs instead of bending forward at your waist.  If an object is too heavy for you ask for assistance to avoid increased strain and risk of injury to your body.

Even gardening can cause injury to our body if performed incorrectly, but if completed correctly gardening has many health benefits.  Per the CDC, gardening has been proven to reduce the risk of  blood pressure, heart disease, DM, obesity, osteoporosis, and depression.  It also has been determined to be a moderate form of exercise to assist with weight loss.

Gardening may lead to injury if activities are performed repetitively with the wrong posture or equipment.  As described earlier it is important to bend at the waist and not at the low back.  Spending prolonged periods of time in a bent over position can lead to irritation in the low back.  Using a stool or bucket can assist with reducing the amount of strain to the low back.

Since gardening irritation with the wrist and elbow can also occur, various tools have been developed to improve the erogonics of using shovels and smaller tools to decrease injury and irritation. When shopping for supplies look for ergonomic tools.

Getting outdoors and working in the fresh air is very healthy for all of us and is great with assisting with decreasing stress and improving overall health.  While enjoying time outdoors this summer, keep in mind that it’s important to perform activity with proper posturing and to use tools that assist with reduction in injury and irritation to your body.

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