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Green Thumb, Healthy You: 10 Tips to Make Gardening a Healthier Hobby

Happy Gardener

Hey there, spring is finally here! For gardeners, that means it’s time to get outside, get your hands dirty, and get healthy. But did you know there are ways to make gardening an even bigger win for your well-being? This article breaks down ten tips to help maximize the health benefits you get from your time in the garden.

So, whether you’re a seasoned green thumb or a complete beginner, there are ways to make your gardening experience even more rewarding. We’re talking about boosting your mood, getting some exercise, and even growing some delicious food for yourself or your neighbors. Ready to learn more? Let’s dig in! (pun intended)

Pick Up the Pace Gradually

Pick Up the Pace Gradually

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While weeding might not break a sweat, many gardening tasks can provide a good workout. To avoid injury, especially if you’re new to gardening or haven’t been active for a while, start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your activities. Focus on activities that work your upper and lower body, like digging, raking, or pulling a hose. As suggested by Candice Shoemaker, a retired professor of horticulture, listen to your body and “do little bouts at a time to build up” endurance.

Lift That Bale with Care

Lift That Bale with Care

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Those bags of mulch and potting soil can be heavy. Improper lifting techniques can lead to back pain. Use proper form when lifting heavy objects. Bend from your knees and keep your back straight, letting your leg muscles do the work, as Christine Zellers, a health educator, recommends. Consider using a bucket to transport smaller, manageable amounts of mulch to planting beds.

Be Sun Savvy

Be Sun Savvy

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Sunshine exposure is excellent for boosting vitamin D production, but too much sun can increase your risk of skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology advises getting vitamin D from supplements or foods like salmon and fortified drinks. To protect yourself from the sun, dermatologist Alison Ehrlich suggests applying sunscreen with SPF 30 at least 30 minutes before going outside. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves, and pants for protection. Ideally, avoid gardening during peak sun hours (10 am to 2 pm) or choose shady areas of your yard to work in throughout the day.

Glove Up

Glove Up

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A good pair of long, cuffed gloves is your best defense against thorns, poison ivy, poison oak, and other garden hazards. Ehrlich recommends leather gloves for added protection. If you’re working in wet conditions, consider wearing waterproof gloves over your regular gardening gloves.

Mask Up (if needed)

Mask Up (if needed)

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Research suggests that wearing a mask similar to those used for COVID-19 can help reduce allergy symptoms by filtering out pollen and mold spores. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends people with seasonal allergies wear masks when mowing lawns or gardening.

Grow with Others (or for Them)

Grow with Others (or for Them)

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Studies show that joining a gardening club or community garden can make gardening a more social experience, boosting your physical and mental health. Even solo gardeners can reap social benefits by sharing their harvest with neighbors or donating to local food banks. Research by Shoemaker suggests that this social interaction can lead to a more positive gardening experience.

Grow More Food

Grow More Food

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While flowers are beautiful, incorporating vegetables and herbs into your garden allows you to enjoy your labor’s fruits (and vegetables). Fresh produce is a healthy and inexpensive way to add essential nutrients to your diet. Zellers highlights that people who grow their food are more likely to eat it. If space is limited, start small with a few herbs. Local cooperative extension offices are an excellent resource for finding tips on what to grow and how to grow it in your area.

Stop and Smell the Roses (and Listen to the Birds)

Stop and Smell the Roses (and Listen to the Birds)

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One of the most significant mental health benefits of gardening is the chance to de-stress and reconnect with nature. Take a mindful moment to appreciate your surroundings. As Zellers suggests, focus on the sights and sounds—the warm sun on your skin, the beauty of the flowers, and the chirping of birds. A 2022 study even found that simply seeing or hearing birds can improve mental well-being, even for those struggling with depression.

Warm Up and Cool Down

Warm Up and Cool Down

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Just like any physical activity, preparing your body for gardening is essential to avoid injuries. Do some light stretches before you loosen up your muscles and improve flexibility. After you’re done gardening, take some time to cool down with additional stretches to prevent muscle soreness.

Stay Hydrated

Stay Hydrated

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Drinking plenty of water is crucial to avoid dehydration, especially on hot days. Keep a water bottle while you’re gardening, and take frequent sips throughout your time outdoors.

Conclusion

Alright, so we explored 10 ways to supercharge the health benefits of gardening. From sun protection to social connection and even the importance of listening to the birds, there are all sorts of things you can do to make your garden time a win-win for your body and mind. So, next time you head out to the garden, remember these tips and get ready to reap the rewards!

 

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