Have you ever walked outside and taken a breath of fresh air, felt the sun on your face, and felt your stress melt away? If so, you are connecting with nature. Gardening is a great way to connect with nature and has proven health benefits for your mind and body.
Good news - the CDC classifies gardening as exercise! It can improve flexibility, increase strength, and improve endurance all while burning calories. Weight bearing and load bearing activities decrease the risk of osteoporosis which are both done often when gardening. Exercising increases endorphin production which improves your mood and decreases anxiety and stress.
Also, boosting vitamin D levels in the body through exposure to sunlight strengthens your immune system, which is critical for fighting inflammation and contagious diseases. While the sunlight feels great on your skin, vitamin D will be absorbed through sunscreen. So don’t forget to put on sunscreen before spending time outdoors.
While the relationship is not clearly understood, gardening has been shown to improve the quality of sleep people have. It is believed this is due to the physical exercise and exposure to the sun which helps with our natural circadian rhythm.
While there are many benefits associated with gardening, there are also risks. When you garden, make sure to reduce your risk of an injury when gardening by trying these tips:
As with exercise, you want to warm your joints and muscles up first. Make sure to stretch your entire back because it gets a lot of exercise during gardening.
Use proper tools
Use proper tools to decrease your risk of musculoskeletal injuries, lacerations, and eye injuries:
- A wagon or garden cart to move materials
- Tools that you can stand with – nothing too heavy to make you lose footing
- Safety glasses to protect your eyes when using power tools or weed whackers
- Proper sized tools that fit your hand to make sure your grip is correct
Try these suggestions to reduce your risk of injuries:
- Protect your back by pushing rather than pulling, avoiding bending/twisting, lifting with your legs instead of your back, and reducing reaching by working close to your body.
- Take breaks and stay hydrated to prevent overheating and dehydration which can be serious issue
- Use a knee pad when kneeling
- Keep your wrists in a neutral position
If you experience any pain, stop immediately and seek help!