Absentee Gardeners

Photo by Lise JenkinsThe Centers for Disease Control states that a third of emergency room visits occur in the spring.

The little cuts and bruises I collect working outside have faded, but they’ll return as I head out to my garden again. Spring can be a dangerous time of year for gardeners, suggested by the fact that the Center for Disease Control states that a third of emergency room visits occur in the spring. Three things can help to avoid injuries as we head back out this season.

Exercise

As you get back outside to your garden, warm up your muscles with gentle stretching before you tackle heavy projects. Plan your garden chores and don’t try to tackle everything all at once. Rotate through a variety of different tasks to avoid injuries resulting from repetitive motions.

Garden environment

Ensure your garden has clear walkways and adequate room for tools, materials and for you to move around. Attempting to move heavy things in a tight space creates opportunities for injuries. Walkways and uneven surfaces can be treacherous when wet; hardscape can shift during winter freezes, and accumulated debris can conceal tripping hazards.

Proper tools

Select the right tool for the job — it will make it easier and reduce strain. Rusty or dull cutting tools require you to exert more force to accomplish your task. Improperly serviced power tools are harder to start come spring and can result in shoulder injuries. Be sure to wear eye and hearing protection when using power tools. Handles should fit comfortably in the palm of your hand where your grip strength is greatest, and their design should allow you to keep your wrist in a neutral position.

As you gear up to garden, have power tools serviced, clean and sharpen hand tools, and oil wooden tool handles to reduce the risk of dry wood breaking or producing splinters.

Regular exercise has benefits beyond staying garden ready; below are some tips to get you started.

Warm up

Inactive muscles contract and, when we are in a cold environment, our muscles contract. The more pliable our muscles are, the easier it is to move without injury. Begin an exercise session, including heading out to the garden, by gently stretching. Start with small movements and gradually work up to larger movements. Ten minutes of stretching could prevent hours of discomfort later.

Do it gradually

Start with small goals and gradually increase your exercise intensity and duration as you build capability. Just like our gardens, it takes time for us to develop our muscle tone. So be patient but consistent with your exercise efforts.

Be accountable

Meeting your fitness goal is easier if you are accountable to someone else. Knowing that you will need to report your results, or lack thereof, is a great motivator, and people report better results if they work with a coach or exercise buddy.

Exercising common sense goes a long way in staying safe. Use tools as they are intended, and always follow the manufacturer’s directions for application and protective equipment when using chemicals in your garden.

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