Home: A Thorny Pastime

Ah, the joys of gardening: spring sunshine, muddy knees, gorgeous pink peonies. It's good for both body and soul. But tending to your flower or veggie bed can also do damage--especially to your back and joints. Before you even start the digging, do a five-minute warm-up: stretch your arms and legs, take a quick walk around the yard. Reduce your odds of strains and sprains by avoiding the squats and bends as much as possible. Long-handled tools limit the awkward stretching that can hurt your back, which should be flat, not twisted. Cushioning pads or a sitting stool will reduce pressure on the knees. And shears with soft grips can help ward off repetitive-stress problems. Be sure to mix up the tasks. "Dig one or two holes, then do some pruning," says horticulturist Charlie Nardozzi of the National Gardening Association (garden.org). "That way you're not stressing the same area of the body over and over again." Wear a hat and gloves, drink lots of water and slap on the sunscreen. And, of course, don't forget to smell the roses.

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