Spring into Gardening Safely

05/16/2016

Gardening offers many physical and mental benefits. It can help reduce stress, improve mental health and when done safely, provide a good source of physical activity to help build stronger bones and muscles.

With spring now upon us, many people are eager to begin growing and cultivating plants, flowers and vegetables but unpredictable Canadian weather can make it tough to determine the best time to begin. In Canada, a general rule of thumb is to wait until the Victoria Day long weekend. If you are one of the many gardeners planning to start your garden this Victoria Day, follow these general tips below to help you spring into gardening safely and prevent injury and strain.

  • Always stretch first—gardening can be a full body workout with a lot of repetitive motions. To help reduce muscle strain, follow these stretches recommended by Canadian Gardening before you begin.
  • Use the right tools—use ergonomic gardening tools with comfortable handles, a wheelbarrow to transport heavy items and, if using power tools, make sure you read the user manuals to understand how to properly operate them before beginning.
  • Protect your knees and back from injury—use knee pads or a kneeling pad/cushion to protect your knees when kneeling for extended periods of time. To protect your back always bend at the knees and lift from your legs, not your back.
  • Protect your skin from sun damage—wear protective clothing such as a long sleeved shirt and hat, use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and avoid gardening directly in the sun when it is strongest between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Keep hydrated—drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, especially water to avoid dehydration.
  • Take plenty of breaks—don’t rush your garden. To help lessen the risk of injury and strain, slow down, try to take breaks every 45-60 minutes and stretch before going back to work.
  • Talk to a pharmacist—some medications can cause adverse side effects when the person taking them is exposed to the sun. Make sure that none of your medications will react with the sun by reviewing them with a pharmacist. Our pharmacists are just a call away to do a full review of all the medicines and supplements you take or are considering.

As with any type of physical activity, you should consult your healthcare practitioner before you begin gardening. While gardening is generally safe for most people, the physical activity aspect can pose certain health risks—this is especially true for those with heart disease, asthma or lung disease, arthritis and diabetes.

Stay safe and happy gardening!

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