(BPT) - Fresh packets of seeds, the dirt between your fingers, and the smell of freshly churned earth – gardening season has officially begun. Whether you’re a seasoned green thumb or a newbie to home planting, gardening is a great activity that provides both physical and mental health benefits.
Enthusiasm for gardening is high. Nearly half (49 percent) of American homeowners have gardened in the last 12 months, or 164 million people, as stated in a 2012 report on GreenhouseManagement.com.
In addition to burning calories while enjoying the peacefulness of Mother Nature, gardening also rewards you with fresh fruits and vegetables that help cut your grocery bill. But one unwelcome part of taking up gardening as a hobby is the potential for strain and injury.
To get the most out of your time gardening, consider these tips for avoiding physical discomfort:
1. Start with a few stretches
You wouldn’t go for a jog or attend a workout class without warming up, so why would you garden without taking a few moments to stretch first? Before grabbing your tools and heading to your yard, spend five or 10 minutes doing stretches focusing on your arms, legs, back and neck. You’ll be moving and turning a lot, so be sure to stretch and loosen muscles to avoid strain when you’re out tending your garden.
2. Avoid bending and lifting the wrong way
Chronic back pain is an issue for many Americans both young and old. Just because you have back issues doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy gardening. Consider installing raised garden beds, which allow you to garden without having to bend over. Additionally, container gardens can be placed on tables or deck railings for easy access. If you don’t suffer from back pain, avoid back injury by bending and lifting the right way. Remember to maintain good posture, minimize quick twisting motions, bend at the hips and knees only, lift items in a slow and controlled manner, and enlist help if necessary.
3. Protect hands and wrists
Gardening can be physically demanding, and the repetitive motions of weeding, hoeing, raking or shoveling can be problematic for the hands and wrists, particularly if you suffer from arthritis. Minimize irritation by wearing a supportive glove, like Imak arthritis gloves, commended by the Arthritis Foundation for Ease-of-Use. These specially designed gloves provide mild compression that helps increase circulation, which ultimately reduces pain and promotes healing. Washable and made from breathable cotton, the gloves are great for the garden enthusiast. Plus the extra protection helps gardeners avoid painful blisters.
4. Protect the skin from the sun
One of the best parts of gardening is you get to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, but that can mean extended time in the sun so it’s important to protect your skin. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and light cotton clothing that covers exposed skin are good first steps. Always apply a water-resistant, broad-spectrum lotion that is SPF 30 or higher at least 15 minutes prior to going outside, as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology.
These simple tips will help position you for a full season of gardening delights. Without injury or other physical irritations, you’ll be able to savor the fruits of your labor in the beauty of the warm weather.