Spring back into action
The snow has melted, the sun is shining and after a long winter, we’re eager to get outside and embrace spring. For many of us though, the winter months meant we spent a lot of time inside and sedentary and we probably aren’t in the best shape anymore.
Our body’s conditioning plays a large role in how well we cope with the stress and tension of daily activities. Whether you’re looking to exercise your green thumb or your golf arm, it’s important to remember some basics of back care so your spring fun doesn’t take a toll on your muscles and joints.
“In the spring we try to tackle all those jobs around the house and yard, and engage in strenuous physical activity without thinking to properly prepare,” says Dr. Brian Gushaty, an Edmonton chiropractor.
“Whether you’re gardening, landscaping, biking, golfing or running, be sure to ease into new activities. It’s also important to use proper tools and techniques to avoid too much stress and strain, which can result in injury.”
Get back into the spring of things
- Ease into it. Start with light to moderate physical activity and gradually increase the intensity. You may have lost flexibility and muscle tone if you were sedentary during the winter months. If you’re a golfer, try nine holes of golf instead of 18. For gardeners, resist the urge to rake the entire yard in one day.
- Stretch before and after. Warm up and cool down your muscles with five to 10 minutes of gentle, slow stretching exercises to help prevent injuries.
- Take a break. When working in the yard, alternate tasks and positions, and take a break every hour.
- Lift it right. When lifting objects, keep your back straight and bend your knees. Lift with your legs and hold heavy loads close to your body.
- The right technique. When gardening, kneel to plant and weed, and rake with one leg in front of the other. For new sports activities, start with a lesson and make sure your equipment is the correct size for you.
- Wear protective gear. Wear a helmet when cycling, rollerblading or skateboarding and do not forget wrist, elbow and knee guards. A hat, sunscreen and breaks in the shade will help prevent overexposure to the sun’s rays.
Healthy gardening tips
Ergonomic tools can help reduce injury. Ergonomic features to look for include:
- Long handled tools with “S” shaped handles allow you to generate more leverage by applying a smaller amount of force and effort at a greater distance. This reduces the likelihood of back muscle strain and the need to twist.
- Wide, padded handles increase surface contact and allow for a better grasp.
- Pliable, cushioned, non-slip handles are more comfortable for prolonged use.
- Lightweight yet sturdy design allows effort to be put into gardening and not lifting and using the tools.
- Spring action mechanisms and gears provide a more efficient, smooth action.
- Rotating handles reduce friction, as the handles move with your hand.
Outdoor sports tips
Even if spring gardening is not your thing, you may be getting your body geared up for outdoor activities such as soccer, tennis or golf. If you are a parent of a young sports enthusiast, it is equally important to help them prepare for outdoor activities.
The following training tips will help you prepare for spring sports:
- Warm up your muscles before exercise. Proper warm up and stretching will help prevent injuries and strains on muscles and joints.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after physical activity to ensure proper hydration.
- Proper nutrition is essential. A good, balanced breakfast and eating a healthy meal before and after practice or a game provides proper nutrient replenishment and refuels the body.
- Safety and injury prevention are important when young athletes take to the field. Ensure your child wears suitable clothing and proper equipment that fits correctly.
- Ensure your budding star gets plenty of rest. Eight to ten hours of sleep is essential for a growing and energetic young athlete. Lack of proper rest can catch up with your child and decrease performance—not to mention increase the chances of injury.
If you experience pain, strain or injury as a result of your spring activities, seek professional health care attention. Chiropractors are experts in back, muscle and joint pain and can also provide advice on how to lead an overall healthy lifestyle.