Gardening for Health
"Gardening is one of Australia’s favorite pastimes and also a great way to maintain a good level of fitness." Dr Duncan Jefferson.
We got home recently after an overseas trip and found the house exactly as we had left it, unnaturally tidy! Needless to say that after I’d started to empty the cases and spread things around, the house had a more homely feel to it. But the garden was a different kettle of fish altogether. Rose bushes looked anaemic and leafless, the hedge had become a feral forest and the only survivors in the plant pots were drooping weeds and the geraniums that seemed to have flourished without water.
So what has this to do with health?
Gardening is one of Australia’s favorite pastimes and also a great way to maintain a good level of fitness. It can also be a time when injuries and health problems can occur. As we move into later winter, those with a horticultural bent will be starting to plan for spring and summer blooms and bounteous crops of vegetables. July is also traditionally the time to prune the roses so that when spring comes our gardens will be a blaze of scented colour. But roses have prickles, and cuts and imbedded rose thorns are a common by product to the annual rose prune. Add in the fact that we need to fertilize our rose bushes with rich, rotted manure and the stage is set for open/penetrating wounds meets rotting vegetation teeming with bacteria with the inevitable outcome of infection. And one of those potential infections you do not want to get is Tetanus.
Tetanus was a scourge for centuries when it was more commonly known as Lock Jaw. The infection causes incredibly painful spasms of the muscles up until the point where it not only locks up your jaw, but it locks up your breathing muscles too. The result is a slow painful death by asphyxiation. Thanks to medical science we now have a very effective vaccination program that has all but eradicated Tetanus in the developed world, but it does still occur and always in those who have not been immunized or who have failed to keep their vaccinations up to date. The current basis of a good immunity to Tetanus is based on childhood vaccinations and adult boosters:
- Childhood vaccines at 2, 4 and 6 months and boosters at 5 and 17 years.
- Adults who turn 50 should also have a booster as immunity does diminish with time.
If you are not sure of your immune status for Tetanus, then check with your family doctor because although Tetanus is rare, the Tetanus spores are not only invisible, but they’re everywhere in your garden!
One of the other joys of gardening is growing your own veggies, salads and herbs. There’s nothing nicer than popping into the garden, picking some fresh basil, pulling up a lettuce, plucking a juicy red tomato that actually tastes like a real tomato and you’ve got the basics of a great salad and a pesto sauce to go with fresh pasta: health on a dish! But the challenge of planting all those seeds/seedlings is that you have to do an awful lot of bending, and for those with less than flexible backs or hips, this can be a trying time! If you’ve ever suffered from back pain, you really don’t want to have to go through it again and with a bit of planning you can avoid it. More and more people are raising their garden beds, and others have deep, meter square garden boxes on stands that mean that you never have to bend over and pull up those weeds - and they’re fantastic for those with limited space. But you cannot avoid bending and lifting at some point if you want to garden, so do be aware of good back care. Work on maintaining a good posture and do exercises that will strengthen your core abdominal muscles. If you don’t know where to find your core then it’s worth while seeing a physio or chiro for a spinal assessment and advice on how to care for your back - it’s money well spent and most HBF Essentials products pay a benefit!
Other dangers lurk in the garden. When I attacked my feral hedge, I found myself at one point standing on one leg at the top of a ladder reaching for that final branch which was tantalizingly just out of reach. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t 30 anymore and that ending up in the Emergency Department and explaining what I had been doing would make me look just a little silly! Apart from wobbly ladders there are long electrical cables, sharp instruments like lawnmowers/hedge-trimmers and water features which all add up to unexpected wounds or accidental electrocution- you have been warned!
And for the little people who love to explore in cupboards, there are things in garden sheds that poison plants and small humans too, corrosive things that burn and penetrate plant or person and fungal spores in old compost that can lead to horrible, if not fatal, chest infections. The message is to check what’s in your garden shed, responsibly dispose of outdated chemicals and make sure you keep it locked when not in use. And always have correct protective gear when using chemicals, sprays or spreading manure or fertilizers.
Gardening is great: it’s good for the body and good for the soul, and like all good crops, if you make careful preparation then you’ll get a good harvest.
The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.