Gardening tips to avoid injury and discomfort

It’s that time of year again when you can dig your hands into the dirt, spread seeds over the freshly turned earth, and smell the delicious scent of green plants growing.

Gardening is very healthy, both physically and mentally. In addition to providing exercise, gardening delivers health benefits in the fresh foods you eat and in the calming presence of flowers in your environment.

To get the most out of gardening’s health benefits, it’s a good idea to do a bit of stretching to help avoid injury or irritating existing conditions while out in the garden. Here are some tips to stay healthy:

Stretch those muscles

Heading out into the garden is just like going for a jog or visiting the gym. Before you grab all your gardening tools, practice some full-body stretches to warm up your muscles. Target your arms, legs and back, because the muscles in these areas will be put to good use while you’re planting, weeding and watering. And before you finish for the day, do some more stretching to help loosen any muscles that tightened during your gardening work.

Banish bending

Many Americans suffer from chronic back pain, which can put a damper on the gardening experience. Consider installing raised garden beds, which allow you to garden without have to bend over. And container gardens can be placed on tables or deck railings to make it easy to reach plants.

Hand and wrist protection a must

Weeding, hoeing, raking, shoveling – the repetitive motions of gardening can lead to hand and wrist pain, and worsen existing conditions such as arthritis. Taking steps to minimize irritation and discomfort while you work can help ensure your gardening tasks don’t create aches or worsen pain. Consider wearing an arthritis glove, like the Imak-made glove commended by the Arthritis Foundation, to provide mild compression and warmth while you work. Because the gloves are made of cotton material with an open-fingertip design, they won’t make your hands hot or hinder movement. Designed by an orthopedic surgeon, the arthritis gloves are also fully washable, so you don’t have to worry about getting a little dirt on them as you go about your gardening tasks. An added bonus – wearing any kind of glove can help you avoid another common gardening injury: blisters.

Keep skin protected

Because gardening keeps a person outdoors a lot during the warm, summer months, it’s important to protect your skin from insect bites and sunburn. While most insect bites are just an irritation, sunburn can cause serious, long-term skin damage. Use insect repellent and sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Also wear a wide-brimmed, lightweight hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes and keep the sun off your head.

Lift carefully

Between the heavy bags of soil, the many tools needed, or full baskets of vegetables being carried into the kitchen for processing, lifting is a common labor when gardening. Remember to lift from a squatting position, with your back straight, so that your legs do the work, not your back. When kneeling down, use gardening knee pads or even just a rolled up towel to cushion your joints from the hard, damp ground. Remember to minimize twisting motions that can inure your back and joints.

Enjoy the healthful benefits of gardening this summer. Follow these simple precautions to keep safe and injury-free so you can play in your garden until the snow falls.