Keeping up with those fallen leaves and twigs puts a lot of stress on your bones. Flexibility is a valuable resource, which many of us take for granted. Gardening in the colder months can mean a more exertion than normal- and though the UK doesn’t get the heavy snow or sub-zero temperatures of other countries, it can often be a shock to clean up the lawn or feed the birds in your garden.
Wear the right clothing
Be warm without being restrictive. While most gardeners find themselves busiest in the summer months, picking up leaves debris in the winter can be a big chore for garden owners. The effects of stressful joint movements can be exacerbated in winter, when stiff joints can contract and lose some their suppleness. Warm clothes prevents muscles from seizing up, and can soften the impact of kneeling on hard surfaces. Layers are best when working outside, as you can remove and add them as you warm up. Consider your hands, neck and legs- while many of us pile on three or four upper body layers when we go outside, we tend to avoid layering over these areas- and on the wet ground you can quickly get cold.
Warm up your joints
This doesn’t mean warm up in the fitness sense, but the benefits of getting the blood flowing around your system a bit faster can reduce soreness and increase recovery. This is especially true in very cold weather. Try taking a stroll around the garden before getting down to work- this will ensure your muscles are getting plenty of oxygen and won’t seize up. Attempt small jobs before starting any heavier tasks.
These days there are lots of labour saving options for gardeners. From handy grabbers to pick up leaves or twigs without stooping, or soft pads for kneeling on, there is a wide variety of solutions to make your life easier. Explore products that could save you effort- many are affordably priced and while some look a little odd, they can turn out to be life savers!
Keep moving while you’re outdoors
While gardening can be a gentle exercise, you nonetheless need to keep blood flowing and try to maintain a good working heart rate. Taking a long rest outdoors means your heart will slow, your body will begin to rest and when you begin working again, you’ll feel all the more tired.
Most of us do it anyway- but ensure to set yourself up properly if you’ve a busy day outside planned. Keep topped up with water (or something warmer!) as you potter around, and make sure you always fortify yourself with a good breakfast. You can burn more calories than you think working outside in the cold- so consider stopping for a break and a snack after a couple of hours.
Cod liver oil is widely taken to support joint health- however iron, magnesium and potassium are all beneficial. All the vitamins and minerals you need are present in a healthy, balanced diet, and you shouldn’t need to take supplements, however many people do report feeling better boosting their vitamin intake with supplements. Taking supplements to reduce soreness and promote muscle or joint recovery can really help if you’ve a big project planned, have struggled with your joints in the past or if you’re vegetarian or vegan.
Consult a doctor
If you start to feel pain of any kind, it’s always best to consult a doctor. Arthritis and other joint problems can develop slowly, and if left can become progressively worse. Always take joint pain seriously, as you can often nip these in the bud with a short rest and warming cup of tea. It can be tempting to overlook a nagging knee or a twinge in your back, but even if you’re only in the garden a few minutes, consider waiting until you're feeling 100% before attempting any big chores.