Stretching, Exercise and Survival Guide to Spring Cleaning
As the weather warms up and days grow longer, some of us might be waking up from a long winter's nap or from some time cuddled up on the couch during the colder season.
If you've been inactive and are now thinking about getting to those spring cleaning projects and preparing the garden for summer glory, you might want to include in your planning some stretching and activities to increase your endurance to avoid getting sidelined by an injury.
Perhaps you should postpone those projects for a couple of weeks while you get your body used to increasing activity.
- Stretch for a few minutes every morning. Stretching allows your muscles to become more flexible and also improves your balance.
- Start walking regularly. Walk at a moderate to vigorous pace for whatever length of time you can, then gradually work up to 30 minutes of continuous movement.
- Focus on your posture. Are you holding your head high, chin tucked back and shoulders straight (not rounded forward)? Good posture is good for your musculoskeletal system and your lungs.
Think of spring cleaning in the house or in the garden as an exercise program. If you hadn't been working out, you'd start with a short workout with lighter weights and fewer repetitions, and gradually increase these over time.
Do the same with your projects: Plan ahead, limiting how long you'll spend each time you "dig in," and start with lighter loads, whether that's boxes from the attic or shovels full of leaves or dirt. Remember that your projects will be stopped short if you hurt yourself.
- Practice the smart ways to lift that you have learned along the way. That is, lift with your legs, not with your back. If you're not sure how much a box weighs, look inside or give it a little test rather than hoisting it up with brute force and little thought. Heavier boxes can be lifted by two people, or contents can be removed before lifting them.
- Keep work areas clear of clutter so you aren't likely to trip.
- Work on one project for a few minutes, then switch to something else so that you change your body's positions. For example, sort through one box of books, stretch a little, then go outside and rake one corner of your garden, perhaps setting a time limit for each activity.
- Take a break for water before you move on to sorting that pile of clothes for donation or sweeping out the shed.
- When you do rake or sweep, think of your rake or broom as your dancing partner and keep it close to you as you work, rather than pushing it out away from your body, which puts strain on your arms and back.
The key is to take your time and use your head! Rome wasn't built in a day and your spring projects might not be finished that quickly either.
About the Author
Donna Salisbury, PT, is a physical therapist at the Cone Health Outpatient Cancer Rehabilitation