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Hopefully on-topic enough:

What guidelines should gardeners follow in order to avoid back injuries and other health problems that could crop up in old age?

Are all intensive gardeners doomed to some health problems from bending, hacking, whacking, shoveling, pulling, heaving, etc?

Is the best answer just: Do everything slowly?

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These suggestions have helped me

  • don't move heavy things early in the day when you are not warmed up
  • don't do that "one last thing" at the end of the day. Being tired increases the chances you will drop something, usually on your toe.
  • wear knee protectors, good ones
  • repetition of any activity for hours is asking for trouble. Do a chore for a while and then walk about and stretch or rest
  • laissez-faire ( as a practice characterized by a usually deliberate abstention from interference) is a valid gardening technique. Maybe the garden doesn't need to be absolutely spotless
  • plant and landscape to minimize follow on intervention. Don't plant things that will require watering or pesticide treatment
  • good tools are a good friend. Don't use tools that do a bad job or make work for you
  • on a very personal note this book has been my valued companion for over 30 years. I'm on my second copy and the stretching exercises included will help you avoid injury at the cost of looking a little silly
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1

A slightly glib answer to your question is that you might consider training your body to be able to handle the task of gardening. For example, you could weight train; you can even beef up your lower back. Maybe this is not a good answer over the period of a lifetime, I can't speak on this point from experience yet.

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