Garden Safely: Pull Weeds, Not Muscles

Woohoo and hallelujah! It’s actually not supposed to rain for a few days and the temperatures will finally hit the 70 degree mark tomorrow. I know, there’s still snow on Baldy Mountain, so while I wait for Valle Novak to tell me that it’s time to plant my annuals I’ll start doing a little yard clean up. How about you?

So, first things first, let’s make sure we all know the safe way to commence this project. Some of us may have become a little sedentary this winter and jumping into strenuous activities without preparation is not a good idea.

“An hour of gardening can reduce stress, boost bone density, and burn a whopping 300 calories. But all that bending, squatting, raking, and lifting can challenge muscles as much as any competitive sport,” an AARP Magazine said.

So before you go out in the yard, do some stretching exercises. Pay particular attention to your back, shoulders, arms and hands. There are several YouTube videos to help you, just Google “exercise before gardening.” I like the one by Anna M. Woods myself, but there are several to choose from.

Then be sure you’re dressed to protect. Wear safety goggles, ear protection, sturdy shoes and long pants when using power equipment. The CDC reminds us: “If you have to raise your voice to talk to someone who is an arm’s length away, the noise can be potentially harmful to your hearing.”

Wear gloves to lower the risk of skin issues like blisters, cuts and contamination from the soil. Although there are only around 30 new cases each year of tetanus, it is caused by a bacterium that’s found in the soil, dust and manure. You should have a booster shot every 10 years. Have you had yours lately?

Use insect repellant and sunscreen, but not the product that combines the two (they require different application times) and wear long sleeves a wide-brimmed hat and sun glasses. If there are ticks in your neighborhood put on some high rubber boots and tuck your pant legs into your socks.

The CDC says to put safety first. “Powered and unpowered tools and equipment can cause serious injury. Limit distractions, use chemicals and equipment properly, and be aware of hazards to lower your risk for injury. Read the operating manual for all power tools and be sure the equipment is working properly. Sharpen tools carefully. Follow instructions and warning labels on chemicals.”

And, by all means, keep tools and chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.

“If you’re outside in hot (or even warm) weather for most of the day you’ll need to make an effort to drink more fluids. Avoid beverages with alcohol and drinks high in sugar, and stay away from caffeinated and carbonated beverages. Have water on hand to decrease the chance of dehydration,” CDC tells us.

Eat healthy foods to help keep you energized. And, speaking of energized, be sure to take frequent breaks. Stop working if you experience breathlessness or sore muscles. Save the undone tasks for another day.

“Listen to your body,” CDC recommends. “Monitor your heart rate, level of fatigue and physical discomfort. Call 911 if you get injured, experience chest and arm pain, dizziness, lightheadedness, or heat-related illness.

“If you have arthritis, use tools that are easy to grasp and that fit your ability. If you are taking medications that may make you drowsy or impair your judgment or reaction time, don’t operate machinery, climb ladders, or do activities that may increase your risk for injury.”

If you’ve read it once, you’ve read it a hundred times but the CDC will tell you again: “Active people are less likely than inactive people to be obese or to have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease stroke, depression, colon cancer, and premature death.”

Hopefully all those April showers are behind us, so let’s get outdoors and for the effort of some beneficial exercise we’ll have a bounty of fresh, healthy vegetables and beautiful flowers. Okay? Valle, tell me when to plant!

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.