I encourage my clients to follow these safety tips for weeding the garden. They are especially appropriate for those individuals with osteoporosis, osteopenia, and low bone density because these individuals are at risk of fracture risk of a compression fracture. These guidelines are also applicable to individuals with low back pain, shoulder or neck pain, or knee arthritis.
Your weeds did not appear overnight and they do not need to disappear in one day. I recommend you do not do all of your weeding in one day. Break it up into smaller, more manageable periods and spread the effort (and strain) across multiple sessions — I recommend no more than 15 to 20 minutes of weeding during each individual session.
Weeding the Garden: Recommended Tools
Besides your weeding tools, I recommend that you have the following items when you weed your garden:
- A foam pad for kneeling and
- A sturdy stick (like a walking stick) to support you when you do the “gardener’s lift” (explained later).
Alternatively, you may want to consider a garden stool such as the one shown here.
Four Weeding Techniques
Here are four techniques to remove weeds safely and not compromise your back, your knees or your bones. Keep in mind that keeping your posture in good form is very important. Make a point of not losing all of the good progress you have been making with your osteoporosis exercise program.
- Shortstop Squat/Hold — This position is ideal for weeding when you do not have a very strong root system.
- Power Squat — You will need to do this for more demanding, deeper root system in your garden.
- Gardener’s Lift — Based on the golfer’s lift, this one is appreciated by clients with knee problems.
- Kneeling — Very effective when you plan on spending a longer period in one patch. A foam pad to support your knees or a gardener’s bench is welcomed.
Distribute your workout on both sides of your body so that you do not stress one part of your body.
Once you are done the weeds, make sure you sit back and enjoy your garden!
Weeding the Garden Demonstration Video
Exercise Recommendations for Osteoporosis
Exercise is an essential ingredient to bone health. If you have osteoporosis, therapeutic exercise needs to be part of your osteoporosis treatment program.
But what exercises should you do and which ones should you avoid? What exercises build bone and which ones reduce your chance of a fracture? Is Yoga good for your bones? Who should you trust when it comes to exercises for osteoporosis?
A great resource on exercise and osteoporosis is my free, seven day email course called Exercise Recommendations for Osteoporosis. After you provide your email address, you will receive seven consecutive online educational videos on bone health — one lesson each day. You can look at the videos at anytime and as often as you like.
I cover important topics related to osteoporosis exercise including:
- Can exercise reverse osteoporosis?
- Stop the stoop — how to avoid kyphosis and rounded shoulders.
- Key components of an osteoporosis exercise program.
- Key principles of bone building.
- Exercises you should avoid if you have osteoporosis.
- Yoga and osteoporosis — should you practice yoga if you have osteoporosis?
- Core strength and osteoporosis — why is core strength important if you have osteoporosis?
Enter your email address and I will start you on this free course. I do not SPAM or share your email address (or any information) with third parties. You can unsubscribe from my mail list at any time.
Safely Weeding the Garden
I recommend you break your weeding up into tangible bits. Maybe 20 minutes to half an hour of weeding at a time.
Other than your weeding tools, I recommend that you have a pad that you can kneel on and a strong and sturdy stick that you can use as a support.
Squats and Happy Knees
If you are happy with your squats and have happy knees, then by all means squat and save your back. You can also support your back by bringing your forearm down onto your thigh — like the short stop position.
From this position you can do some weeding that’s not aggressive or that is not too demanding.
If you need to tackle a deeper root system, then you are going to have to get two legs behind the item, get in close and use much more of the power pushing up with your legs.
Use a Stick for Support
Consider hinging from your hip, and avoid getting down into deep squats. This is important for people with arthritis in the knees.
Use the stick in the opposite side from the leg that you’re going to be leveraging off of. Hold the stick far enough apart that you feel stable, so that when you go up, you can continually just offset the bend and use the weight from the opposite hand.
If you’re doing this and you’re moving along the garden and you’re coming down and working through different areas, I would encourage you to do half of it with the leverage off of the right foot, and then certainly switch part way through, and do half of it with the leverage off of the left foot.
Keep Your Balance
Good balance is important through your weeding session.
Instead of getting on your knees, consider sitting on a low stool. That allows you to spend time in through this whole area, or your whole area of garden that you have to work through.
This well covers whether you’re doing a short stop hold, the hip hinge or golfer’s lift, or coming down and working in a better ergonomic position.
Keep in mind to save your back that you can balance the weeding from the right arm and left arm. This provides an even workout through your body.
Finally, remember to break it up even through the day or even better through the week.
The Spinal Stretch Exercise
For those of you who have had posterior disc bulge or wish to avoid one, forward work should be sandwiched in between back extensions. A gentle back extension is a spinal stretch:
Activities of Daily Living
Visit my page dedicated to Activities of Daily Living to learn about other activities of daily living.
Folding Kneeler Stool image source: Lee Valley Tool.
Carolyn Ramos says
This article is really good if I hadn’t already done the leaf picking up and weeding. What I needed to know is, what do I do to get the muscles of my butt and back of my upper legs to stop hurting now that the deed is done. I’m 80 years old and would just like to know if there is something I can do now, after the deed is done. Thank you for your input.
Margaret Martin says
Sorry of for the delay in responding. Hot/cold contrast shower on your legs is helpful to increase blood flow to your legs. Alternate the shower from 45 seconds of as cool as you comfortable can take it to very warm. Repeat several times. Self massage of your thighs (upper legs) with a rolling pin, of your butt and back with a soft ball (tennis ball) against the wall will also help. wrap it all up with some safe stretching (quadriceps and hip rotators) as is shown in Exercise for Better Bones.
Joan Duffy says
I have two knee replacements and can’t kneel no matter what I put down. Most carts are to high and kill the back
Margaret Martin says
Hi Joan, That leaves you with two options:
Shortstop Squat/Hold – This position is ideal for weeding when you do not have a very strong root system.
Power Squat – You will need to do this for more demanding, deeper root system in your garden.
Another consideration if you have the means or you have a talented person in your life, is to have raised garden beds built. Maybe other readers will offer a suggestion. Wishing you all the best.
Hi Margaret,I have 4 compression fractures L1 2 3 and 4. This all started in Dec 2020 due to Osteoporosis.suffered with terrible pain for months.I see a physical therapist 3 x a week as of 1 month ago.I’ve been taking Prolia injections for the last 3 years.I’m just wondering if there is something else I should be taking.Im also taking Vit. D 3 Thanks Linda
Richard Martin says
Hi Linda. Margaret cannot give medical advice without an assessment. You should have this conversation with your physician since they know your medical history and profile.