With the weather turning warmer, many Americans are looking forward to getting back into their gardens and preparing the summer's colorful blooms and fresh produce. Gardening is a good activity because it involves a lot of muscle groups. However, many gardeners tend to be sedentary most of the winter. And on the first nice weekend of spring or summer, they spend long hours bending, pulling, pushing, and lifting.
Though gardening is often thought of as a less stressful activity, the sudden enthusiasm and overexertion can increase the risk for injury. In some ways, gardeners are like the weekend athlete. Gardeners who push their body too hard can end up with back pain, elbow injury, and sore shoulders and knees. And recovery can sometimes take days to weeks.
While anxious gardeners are eager to prepare the garden in one day, experts caution taking it slow. First, do some warm-ups to loosen the body. Stretches, bends, and twists will ease the body into readiness for activity.
To reduce the risk of strains, use ergonomically correct garden equipment. Make sure you use the right tool for the job. Also make sure your garden tools are in good shape and, if necessary, well oiled.
When you start working, break up activities into small chores so you aren't using the same motions for an extended period of time. If you're working close to the ground, such as when planting small groups of flowers, try to have all your materials at arm's length. Place weeds on a tarp or towel until you have finished working in an area. Then gather the entire bunch and haul it for disposal. That will save your knees and hips from extra bending, and ease the strain of getting up and down from a kneeling position.
Other Gardening Dangers
There are several other potential dangers in the backyard garden. Pesticides can be poisonous to children and pets. Try to avoid using them, or keep children and animals away from treated areas. Read all labels to ensure the product is used correctly and immediately dispose of the empty container.
Make sure all tools are in good working order and blades are sharpened. Use safety precautions, including protective eyewear, when using any power equipment.
Keep children and pets out of the yard when using power tools and lawn mowers. (Every year, about 9,400 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for lawn mower-related injuries.) Health experts also say children should not be allowed to ride along as passengers on a riding lawn mower.
If you need a ladder to perform some of your chores, inspect it for damage and make sure it is set properly on the ground.
As a general rule, use the same safety precautions as for other outdoor activities. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Be on the lookout for poison ivy. If you're working in areas where ticks are prevalent, wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants to reduce the risk of being bitten by a deer tick and contracting Lyme disease.