Stay fit to garden

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To asking "How can I stay in good shape as I garden or get in shape in order to garden more?" B.H. did this, requesting, "an article with advice on physical fitness for gardeners, or at least a few do's and don'ts..."


The longer we garden, the more we relate to what our mentor, Curt Pickens said one spring day,

Oh why didn't we do this last fall when I was younger and in better shape?!

So here's our starter list, which we've posted at the Forum to attract more input. Something we've noticed is that a great many people in the medical profession go in for gardening in a big way. We bet the Member-medicos at the Forum will bring a lot to this discussion! We'll listen ad we're always learning new cautions.

  • 1) Wear boots and gloves. We know because we were once there, that it's a challenge to get used to such gear. However, once you do you will notice more and more reason to keep it on!
  • 2) Cover your arms and legs. The skin is your largest organ and first line of defense against almost everything. Don't irritate it unnecessarily.
  • 3) Learn to bend properly to avoid back strain. We accidentally discovered an excellent way to learn this: Carry a baby in a backpack as you work. You must bend properly or the baby will shift or slide out. Don't guffaw. Try it. What we learned gardening with kids on our backs has stood us in great stead for 30 years.
  • 4) Wear padded knee pants. Not strap on knee pads that slip or cut off circulation. Not a kneeling pad that you will almost certainly leave at station 2 as you move to 3 or 4. Pants with pockets at the knee, those pockets filled with the kind of pad a football player wears on his shoulders.
  • 5) Switch activities every fifteen minutes, or more often. Switch which foot you're leading with as you dig, or which hand you're using to pluck weeds. Swap wheelbarrow for rake, rake for hoe, hoe for hedge shears and then back to 'barrow.
  • 6) Use only good tools.
    Look for shock absorbers on loppers and hedge shears, ergonomic rotating handles on pruning shears, and anything that will literally lighten your load -- choose lighter and better balanced tools.
    Keep all tools sharp, including trowels and spades.
    Do not use power tools unless absolutely necessary. Vibration is a killer, and extending one's arms while holding machinery has a tendency to cause strain in many places.


Allergies can kick in even after lots of no-consequence exposure

Many people are have skin that reacts to the oils in juniper, pine and spruce. Some see a minor rash for a day or so. Others will show that level of injury (below) for a few minutes or an hour, but then see it turn into angry red welts that last for for days.

Note the difference between the skin at the wrist (arrow), which had been covered by the cuff of a glove, and what had been bare while stuffing spruce into yard waste bags.


Even a person who thinks "I'm not allergic, I never have reacted to that" should cover up rather than subject their skin to exposure, because a body can develop a sensitivity even after many years. It's as if every person has a pre-set limit to what they can take and the skin accumulates the offenses until that point is reached.

As a for-instance, we know a 50 year old man who suddenly reacted to poison ivy. He exhibited symptoms so severe he had to be rushed to the hospital. He had never had any reaction before that time, even though he had 20 years experience in a field that brought him into frequent contact with poison ivy.


Keep an ear cocked and eye open to avoid others' troubles

Staying healthy involves learning for a lifetime. We always listen for new tips and cautions, like those below. If you have others, take them to the Forum and post them.

Holly cautions

Fungus-y fall leaves put a catch in your throat



We have sometimes heard, "Enough! Or I will be afraid to set foot outside!" We understand that looking at a long list of potentially hazardous actions and substances can be daunting. However, we have always been grateful for such a list when we recognize something odd in our own reactions or feelings. "Oh, is that what this might be!!"