News Release

April 16, 2007

Contact: Jane Shaskan, 860-679-4777

Shape Up Before Tackling Spring Gardening

UConn Health Center Physical Therapist Says Conditioning is Key

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Seasonal gardeners are getting out the work gloves, the rake, spade and shovel and heading out to tackle spring clean up and gardening. “Gardeners may have all the right tools, but are they prepared physically?” asks Brian Swanson, physical therapist at UConn Health Center. “Gardening is like a sport in many ways. It’s very physical. There’s a reason it’s called yard work. If you don’t stretch and exercise regularly, you’ll need some conditioning,” he says. “But even for those in good shape, proper body mechanics are essential.”

Before you go down the garden path, Swanson suggests these tips to help avoid muscle pain:

  • Start with stretches: the forearm and hand muscles, the back and trunk muscles, and the thigh and leg muscles. If you’re not sure how to stretch, there are numerous books available. Check your local library or bookstore and be sure the author is credible.
  • Always begin work with light activities. Then do heavier work and finish with lighter work.
  • Pacing is important. Listen to your body. When you are tired, rest or stop. Don’t try to do too much work at one time. As your gardening days add up, you should be able to work for longer periods of time.
  • Ask for help if you’re doing a particularly heavy job. Maintain good body mechanics by trying to keep your back from bending forward and using your legs for bending and lifting. Try not tow twist when lifting.
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

There are also a number of helpful gardening aids on the market, such as kneepads, carts, and low benches that help make work easier, said Swanson. He suggests a visit to a local garden or hardware store to see what’s available and what might be helpful for particular gardening chores.

For most active people, gardening is a good way to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors. There’s even research that suggests it’s beneficial in preventing osteoporosis; however, Swanson advises seeking the guidance of a physician, physical therapist, or other qualified health care provider before beginning any activity program. That’s especially important for people with health conditions that may be influenced by physical activity. “It may be called gardening, but you’re starting a new exercise program. Get your doctor’s OK,” Swanson said.

UConn Health includes the schools of medicine and dental medicine, the UConn Medical Group, University Dentists, and John Dempsey Hospital. Home to Bioscience Connecticut, UConn Health pursues a mission of providing outstanding health care education in an environment of exemplary patient care, research and public service. More information about UConn Health is available at

Note: News professionals are invited to visit the UConn Health Today news page ( for regularly updated news and feature stories, photos and media stories. News releases are archived at UConn Health news and information is also available on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.