Healthy gardening habits start with the right tools

Developing a love of gardening can be a great way to plant the seed for a healthier lifestyle.

The many benefits of a green thumb include consistent exercise, reduced stress and better mental health. In fact, a recent study conducted in Sweden found regular gardening can cut the risk of a heart attack and stroke and prolong life by as much as 30 per cent among a 60-plus age group.

For those with chronic health conditions, gardening can be an ideal low-impact exercise done at your own pace. But, before you pull on your work gloves, keep the following tips in mind: TARGET THE RIGHT TOOLS Chose lightweight tools that require less energy to

maneuver and get rakes or hoes with extra-long, extendable handles to avoid excessive strain. Also, invest in a small stool or bench to cut down on the need for constant bending and kneeling.

WATCH THE WEATHER If you suffer from lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, watch the weather report and avoid working outside when pollen and pollutant levels are high – these can trigger a serious lung attack. Watch for signs of a lung attack, like increased coughing, shortness of breath wheezing, or unusual changes in phlegm.

HEAD OUT OF THE HEAT Avoid gardening during the peak hours of 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun is at its strongest and humidity at its highest. If you must be out during that period, plan to work in the shade and drink plenty of fluids. Also, wear a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 that protects against both UVB and UVA rays.