Gardening is the number one recreational activity in the United States. One out of every three people spend some of their leisure time in the garden and it's easy to see why. To put it simply, gardening is good for you. Not only does it enrich your mind and spirit, but gardening is great physical exercise. Here are a few pointers to help make the time you spend gardening even healthier.
Shield Yourself From The Sun
What's good for your plants isn't always good for you. According to the National Cancer Institute, skin cancer is the most common of all cancers in the United States. To protect yourself from the damaging effects of the sun, wear sunscreen and sunglasses, and keep your head covered with a cheerful floppy hat.
Use Chemicals Sparingly
Chemicals are bad for our bodies and bad for the environment. If you use them at all in the garden, use them sparingly. Always read and follow label directions carefully. Use good cultural practices to reduce the need for chemical treatments.
Keep Bugs At Bay
Insect bites and stings can be painful and in some cases (e.g. West Nile virus, Lyme Disease, bee sting allergies) they can be down right dangerous. Wear bug repellant to keep bugs at bay.
Protect Against Rashes, Cuts & Scrapes
Gardening can be hard on your skin-especially when working around plants with thorns or prickly stems, or when coming up against the occasional poisonous plant. Protect your hands and feet with thick gloves and close-toed shoes. When working around plants like poison ivy, wear protective clothing (gloves, boots, long sleeve shirts and pants) and if you wear your hair long, pull it back or keep it covered with a scarf or hat. Shower and wash your outdoor clothes as soon as possible and until then, try to avoid touching any exposed skin.
Practice Safety First
Always keep your garden equipment in good working order. Knowing how it works and learning how to use it properly will help prevent serious accidents. Always wear protective eyewear when pruning and trimming and handle and dispose of chemicals according to the manufacturers directions.
Cushion Your Back & Knees
Many gardening chores require you to engage your knees and back for long periods time, which makes them more susceptible to strain related injuries. Use knee pads or a piece of foam to cushion your knees while you perform tasks requiring you to kneel. Be careful not to overload shovels or spades and always bend your knees and hips while lifting.
Set Aside 30 Minutes Each Day
Gardening is considered a moderate form of exercise, and research has shown that just 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day (the equivalent of walking 3-4 mph) can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, guard against osteoporosis, and help prevent diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. And there's even more good news. Research also suggests that you can break up those 30 minutes into 3 sessions lasting 10 minutes each without losing any of the health benefits.
Prevent Pulled Muscles
Gardening activities work all of the major muscle groups. Warm up and cool down by doing a few simple stretches for 2-3 minutes before and after you perform gardening tasks. Take frequent breaks to stretch when a task requires your body to stay in the same position for long periods of time. Also, make sure you drink plenty of water while doing outdoor activities.
Tips For Maximizing Calories Burned
Individual gardening tasks may not burn a lot of calories, but once you add them up, they really start to count. The key to maximizing the amount of calories you burn while gardening is to vary your activities. Completing tasks manually burns the greatest number of calories, so whenever possible, choose manpower over motor power.
* Average Calories Burned Per 30 Minutes (170 lb person):
|Digging, Spading & Tilling||202|
|Laying Sod||202 |
|Snow Removal (snow blower)||182|
|Snow Shoveling (heavy snow)||364|
|Trimming & Pruning (power)||142|
|Trimming & Pruning (manually)||182|
|Walking (fertilizing or seeding)||182|
*(Source: National Gardening Association)
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