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How does your garden grow?
Why it’s good exercise
Health and safety tips

Take the strain out of gardening
Take the strain out of gardening

Follow these tips to prevent health problems when gardening. If the strain becomes too much on your body, recruit the help of a neighbor or hire a local landscaper.

  • Mow lawns regularly so grass doesn’t grow too tall since overgrown lawns are difficult to mow.
  • Adjust the mower’s height to hip level to avoid back strain.
  • Avoid watering plants yourself. Consider investing in an irrigation system.
  • Buy lightweight garden tools.
  • Use raised beds to minimize bending.
  • Watch for wet lawns or loose gravel that may cause falls.
  • Use ground covers or mulch to minimize mowing, watering and weeding needs.

Gardening means different things to different people. For some, it’s a way to beautify their homes. For others, it’s a way to enjoy the great outdoors. Others like to grow their own fruits and veggies or just make their community a better place.

But did you know that gardening also is a form of exercise?

Why it’s good exercise

As you’re planting, you’re working your body’s major muscle groups including your legs, arms, shoulders, neck and back. Not only are you exerting energy during gardening, but you’re doing other forms of exercise, too: stretching as you pull weeds, bending as you plant seeds or lifting as you haul a garbage can of leaves.

Experts agree that gardening is a good form of physical activity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, active people are less likely than those who are inactive to be obese or have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, coronary artery disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer and premature death. Researchers at Kansas State University in Manhattan deemed gardening a form of moderate-intensity activity (any exercise that increases breathing or heart rate, such as brisk walking or bicycling).

Health and safety tips

Whether you’ve never planted a seed or can do it with your eyes closed, health and safety are crucial when gardening:

Dress properly. Wear long pants and sleeves, a wide-brimmed hat, sturdy shoes and safety goggles (if using machinery) to protect you from bugs, chemicals and the sun. Gloves help decrease your risk for cuts and skin irritants. Apply sunscreen to exposed skin and use insect repellent as directed on its label.

Be safe. Gardening tools can be dangerous so use them with care. Use chemicals and equipment properly, following all instructions and warning labels. When sharpening tools, do so cautiously.

Watch yourself. As we age, we’re at higher risk for heat-related illness. Watch your activity in the heat; being outdoors in hot weather even briefly can be dangerous. Drink plenty of water. Rest frequently, and do so in shady areas to give your body time to recover. And stop working if you don’t feel well, especially if you have signs of heat-related illness including headaches, rapid pulse, dizziness, nausea or confusion.

Get vaccinated. Tetanus lives in soil and enters through breaks in the skin, making gardeners susceptible to tetanus infections. Be sure that your tetanus vaccine is up to date (adults should get one every 10 years).

Know your limits. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have physical, mental or environmental concerns about gardening safely. If you’re taking medications that may make you drowsy or impair your judgment or reaction time, don’t use machinery, climb ladders or perform activities that may increase your risk for injury. Monitor yourself, including watching for fatigue, increased heart rate and physical discomfort. Stop if you don’t feel well. Call 911 if you get injured or have chest and arm pain, dizziness, lightheadedness or heat-related illness.