The Athleticism, Ergonomics, and Revolutionary Potential of Gardening

Fitness Friday: the athleticism, ergonomics, and revolutionary potential of gardening (based on a webinar from earlier this summer).

When you consider gardening, chances are the athleticism involved doesn’t come to mind. But the endurance and strength required for squatting and kneeling, lifting and moving of heavy loads, prolonged postures, all make gardening a potential form of exercise. And with any exercise comes risk of injury, and with gardening in particular, low back injuries are common (the bending and rotation of the trunk, inhibition of deep abdominals and glutes common to many, and poor lifting mechanics are the big contributors here).

A functional baseline of strength and endurance to mirror your activity is an important method of injury prevention (functional training, postural correction, functional exercise are key). Ergonomics can prevent injury as well, for example, in gardening: lifting using the legs (not the back), avoiding bending + twisting when possible (common injury source), keeping a heavy load close to your center of gravity when carrying, maintaining sharp or well-oiled gardening tools when applicable, keep wrists in neutral position, and take micro breaks (ie change your posture often to avoid repetitive use or overtraining injuries). For more ergonomic gardening tips, see and

Tending to the land is not only an exercise/athletic event, it is also a political act. Growing your own food garners food security and sustainability, particularly when systems are challenged or there’s economic instability. Converting lawns to food is more environmentally friendly ( and and what we teach at The Resiliency Institute). Further, systemic oppression (racism) impacts who has access to land (ex most rural land is owned by Whites ) and food (ex Blacks have greater food insecurity and ) Gardening, individually or communally, can be revolutionary and subvert systems meant to maintain inequality ( and )

Who knew gardening could be so badass? Athletic, system restructuring, reclamation of heritage and community and food security, environmental improvement and sustainability, and connection to nature. Hopefully this post inspires you to try it – get some exercise while you dismantle systems of harm.

Interested in working with me for a fitness or ergonomics assessment? DM or email me at  Please check out The Resiliency Institute for more information on our permaculture offerings.

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Written by Dr. Allison Mitch, PT (DPT), copyright protected, please cite accordingly.  Originally posted to social media on 8/7/20.    Image is mine.

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