When people think of exercise, a few common associations are running, workout videos and weight lifting. While those activities are great exercises, there are other options out there that are both practical and effective workouts. One which reaps great fitness benefits is gardening.

Not only does gardening burn 200-400 calories per hour, it allows you the mental health benefits of communing with nature, and lets you grow tasty healthy foods like seasonal fruits, vegetables and herbs.

On that same note, while people do not typically view gardening as traditional exercise, they can overlook the possible injuries associated whilst participating in the activity. Gardening can take a serious toll on your body, if not done with precaution. To avoid preventable gardening injuries and health hazards, here are some tips:

Warm up

Flipping soil and tearing out roots can be incredibly demanding. Tight muscles are more likely to sustain injuries while fighting with the garden bed. Before heading to the tool shed for your shovel and gloves, take a few minutes to stretch and jog in place. This will warm your body and increase blood flow to prevent injury.

Start and end with good posture

Don’t bend over to pull weeds or dig with small hand tools. Instead, get a padded kneeler and garden on your hands and knees. Also, make sure you’re not wrenching you wrist.

If you find yourself turning your wrists in an unnatural way, try re-positioning yourself. Often, a different angle can help you get into that dense soil or cut through stubborn roots without putting strain on your wrists.

Lastly, if you’re using a full-sized shovel, don’t twist when pitching dirt. Set your feet shoulder width apart and point your toes slightly out so that you can pivot, instead of twisting at the waist.

Goggles and gloves

If you’ll be using any kind of powered gardening tools, wear safety goggles. Tilling soil, or working with other unpredictable tools, can send dirt flying right into your eyes. This can cause traumatic eye injury by leaving scratches on the cornea. Additionally, foreign objects in the eye can cause infections and vision problems.

By not wearing gloves, you expose yourself to untold, potentially harmful bacteria and disease. Working with spiny plants and gardening tools often leave gardeners with open blisters and cuts. Among the risks are tetanus and bacterial infections. Additionally, dirt which carries toxoplasmosis and fungi can get trapped under your nails. When you scratch yourself, touch your eyes or mouth, or eat, you can be absorbing disease-causing microbes.

Power up

Again, since gardening isn’t largely thought of as a regular exercise routine, many people won’t regard drinking or snacking in the same way. You’ll be burning up to 400 calories an hour, so you should consume a high protein snack about half-an-hour before beginning the activity and directly after completing it. This will help keep your sugar levels from plummeting and help protect your muscles from injury. Keep water on hand and drink often.

Know your limits

So many gardeners have a picture of what they want to get done in a certain timeframe, and often they’ll push through to the end, but this can be hazardous if your body is saying stop. Dizziness, nausea and confusion can be signs of heat stroke or low blood sugar. Both can lead to unconsciousness. Heatstroke alone can lead to multiple organ failure and death. While this is an extreme case, it’s brought on by people not being aware of their bodies in the heat.

In more moderate cases, the symptoms of overheating can discourage you from re-engaging in gardening, for fear of repetition. So, do yourself a favor, if you’re feeling ill in the heat, move indoors and cool down before resuming your activity.

Sources:

http://www.healthline.com/health/eye-foreign-object-in#Overview1

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heat-stroke/basics/causes/con-20032814

http://www.rose.org/rose-care-articles/tetanus-the-silent-killer/

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/warming-up-cooling-down

http://www.webmd.com/parenting/fun-and-fit-family-11/calorie-burners