Use these tips to avoid injury and discomfort while tending to your vegetables and flowers
Warm weather is here and it’s time to get the garden going. Gardening is good for you on many levels—from the mental health boost you get from doing something relaxing to the physical benefits of exercise, time outdoors and adding fresh vegetables to your diet. Bending over to weed, gripping gardening tools and the general physical effort of gardening, however, can make existing aches and pains worse, or even cause new ones.
This summer, take steps to ensure your gardening experience is as comfortable and beneficial as possible. Here are some ideas for avoiding injury and irritating existing conditions while gardening, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dress to protect. Gear up to protect yourself from lawn and garden pests, harmful chemicals, sharp or motorized equipment, insects, and harmful rays of too much sun.Wear safety goggles, sturdy shoes and long pants when using lawn mowers and other machinery.Protect your hearing when using machinery. If you have to raise your voice to talk to someone who is an arm’s length away, the noise can be potentially harmful to your hearing.Wear gloves to lower the risk for skin irritations, cuts and certain contaminants.Protect yourself from diseases caused by mosquitoes and ticks. Use insect repellent containing DEET. Wear long-sleeved shirts, and tuck pants in your socks. You may also want to wear high rubber boots since ticks are usually located close to the ground.Lower your risk for sunburn and skin cancer. Wear long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats, sun shades and sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher.Know your limits in the heat. Even being out for short periods of time in high temperatures can cause serious health problems. Monitor your activities and time in the sun to lower your risk for heat-related illness. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to replace lost fluids. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.Avoid drinking liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar, especially in the heat. These actually cause you to lose more body fluid.Take breaks often. Try to rest in shaded areas so that your body’s thermostat will have a chance to recover. Stop working if you experience breathlessness or muscle soreness.Pay attention to signs of heat-related illness, including extremely high body tempera ture, headache, rapid pulse, dizziness, nausea, confusion or unconsciousness.Watch people who are at higher risk for heat-related illness, including infants and children up to age 4; people 65 years of age or older; people who are overweight; people who push themselves too hard during work or exercise; and people who are physically ill or who take certain medications (i.e. for depression, insomnia or poor circulation).Eat healthy foods to help keep you energized.Talk to your health care provider if you have physical, mental or environmental concerns that may impair your ability to work in the garden safely.If you have arthritis, use tools that are easy to grasp and that fit your ability. Research shows that 2½ hours per week of moderate physical activity can give you more energy and can help relieve arthritis pain and stiffness.If you are taking medications that may make you drowsy or impair your judgment or reaction time, don’t operate machinery, climb ladders or do activities that may increase your risk for injury.Listen to your body. Monitor your heart rate, level of fatigue and physical discomfort.Call 911 if you get injured, experience chest and arm pain, dizziness, lightheadedness or heat-related illness.Enjoy the benefits of physical activity.Gardening is an excellent way to get physical activity. Active people are less likely than inactive people to be obese or have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer and premature death.Be active for at least 2½ hours a week.Include activities that raise your breathing and heart rates and that strengthen your muscles. You can burn 150 calories by gardening (standing) for approximately 30 to 45 minutes. Help kids and teens be active for at least 60 minutes a day.If you have been inactive, start out with just a few minutes of physical activity each day. Gradually build up time and intensity.Vary your gardening activities to keep your interest and to broaden the range of benefits.