Easy back-saving strategies
Taking care of the yard can be good exercise, but it can also cause aches and pains. Here’s how to prevent stress and strain in the lawn and garden.
A new study reveals that mowing the lawn can result in a variety of physical ailments—many of which can be avoided. Yard care equipment manufacturer Lawn-Boy sponsored a national study of 665 adults and found that 31 percent reported having a sore back after mowing, while others reported problems with shoulders, arms, hands, legs, and feet.
According to Joe Hager, senior engineer for Lawn-Boy, the mower can make a big difference in how the body feels after mowing. “It’s important to use lawn mowers that work with the body—not against it,” he says. “We study homeowners using lawn mowers in their yards, document how they exert energy and strain their bodies while mowing, and develop new features to help them avoid injury.”
Hager says the research has resulted in product improvements to make mowing easier, such as adjustable handles, ergonomic grips, reduced mower weight, and easy-turn wheels. Other mower improvements include a lawn bag that can be removed with one hand and a self-propel system that automatically senses and adjusts to a person’s walking speed up to 5 miles per hour.
In addition to easier mowing, try these simple strategies to protect your back when doing yard and garden chores:
Maintain abdominal strength. The abdominal muscles stabilize the lower back, and when they’re weak, back muscles are easily strained. To protect and support your back, do abdominal exercises such as crunches, bent-knee sit-ups, and pelvic tilts at least three times a week.
Warm up. Before starting yard work, walk around the yard for a few minutes while swinging your arms. This prepares your body for strenuous activity by raising the temperature of your muscles, lubricating your joints, and getting your blood flowing.
Take a break. Even if you don’t feel tired, establish time limits and take frequent breaks. This allows the back muscles to recover; otherwise, they may become fatigued and lose their ability to protect your body from injury. (Set a timer if you find it difficult to stop.) Remember, you may not experience discomfort until the day after a period of strenuous gardening.
Cool down and stretch. After gardening, take time for a muscle-releasing stretch to lengthen the back and eliminate any disk compression.