As it begins to get warmer it is a great time to get back in the garden. There are many health and wellness benefits to gain from this popular pastime. Here are some tips to stay safe and healthy while gardening.
Prevent pain. Since repetitive movements can lead to tendon or nerve irritation, vary your movements every 15 minutes and take frequent breaks. Rather than bending at the waist to plant or weed, squat or kneel on the ground or sit on a garden stool.
Use helpful tools. Garden stools, benches, wheelbarrows, garden carts, raised beds, cushioned kneelers and ergonomic tools can help lessen the burden on your body.
Watch for pests. Prevent insect bites and stings by wearing insect repellant containing DEET, being mindful of your surroundings, tucking your socks into your shoes and wearing gardening gloves.
Dress Appropriately. Wear light-colored long pants and long-sleeved tops, a wide-brimmed hat, sturdy shoes or high rubber boots and gloves to protect yourself. If you’re trimming bushes, weed-eating or mowing the lawn, add a pair of goggles to protect your eyes. Wear earplugs while using loud machinery.
Protect your skin. Even if it’s cloudy outside, you still need to wear sunscreen. Choose an option that offers broad-spectrum protection and an SPF of at least 15. Reapply every two hours, especially after sweating. Try to do yard work before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. to avoid the sun’s harshest rays.
Stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle with you when you’re working outdoors. The heat and sun, combined with physical exertion, can quickly lead to dehydration, increasing your risk of dizziness, fainting or injury.
Take breaks. Take frequent breaks in the shade and avoid sitting or standing in one position for more than a few minutes. Eat healthy meals and snacks to stay energized.
Watch for signs of heat-related illness. These include headache, high body temperature, dizziness, rapid pulse, confusion, nausea or unconsciousness. People who are over age 65, obese, physically ill or on certain medications are at higher risk for heat-related illness.
Health Benefits of Gardening
Boosts your mood. Gardening has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Having a hobby like gardening can also give you a sense of purpose and structure each day.
Increases physical activity. Gardening burns calories and is a great way to get your recommended 2.5 hours of physical activity a week. Half an hour of moderate-intensity physical activity a day can also lower your blood pressure.
Relieves aches and pains. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity each week can help reduce arthritis stiffness and pain and increase energy.
Promotes healthier eating. When you grow fresh produce, you’ll be more likely to add it to your meals. Gardening with young kids is a wonderful way to get them interested in eating their fruits and vegetables.
Provides Vitamin D exposure. Getting a few minutes of sunlight can give your body the vitamin D it needs for strong bones. Be sure to apply SPF if you’ll be outside for more than 15 minutes.
Charles DePaolo, MD
department of Pardee Hospital