Now that warmer weather has arrived, many people will start participating in a very, very common leisure activity -- gardening.
For some reason, in spite of its tremendous popularity, gardening frequently goes unheralded. This is unfortunate because gardening is not only pleasurable and productive, but it is also a very healthy pastime.
Gardening is a form of exercise. Studies have shown that it is beneficial to one's health. Granted, gardening usually consists of only mild to moderate exercise, but when done three or four times a week it has a positive cumulative effect on the gardener's health.
There are more benefits to gardening than just its physical value. There has been a recent surge of interest in utilizing the beneficial emotional effects of gardening. This is called horticulture therapy: the use of gardening to treat various emotional difficulties such as depression, anxiety states and other psychological maladies.
There is something uplifting about working outdoors and watching what you have planted grow, be it a flower or a vegetable. But gardening can also be associated with a variety of physical woes. Continual bending, digging, pulling out weeds and other maneuvers that are needed to make a garden flourish, can result in backaches and joint pains.
In an attempt to prevent these afflictions, a large industry has emerged with the goal of making ergonomic tools for gardeners. Ergonomics is the science concerned with designing safe and comfortable products to help prevent injuries and stress on various body parts. Look for garden tools that are designed to place less strain on your body, a body that more than likely has had too much stress placed on it already.
Also, don't get into uncomfortable positions for long periods of time or use repetitive motions. This can result in muscle and joint aches and pains. Bask in the fruits of your gardening labors, whether it is eating a delicious tomato you have grown or enjoying the aroma of the flowers that have blossomed under your loving tender care. But these are not the only benefits of gardening. As a result of all of your work you are now a healthier person.
Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of the National Birth Defects Center, medical editor of CBS4 TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.