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Enjoy Healthy Eating by Gardening this Summer with Safety Tips from Atrium Health Navicent

Time spent gardening is good exercise and results in home-grown healthy food

Gardening is a great way for the entire family to be physically active and eat healthier. There's something fulfilling and rewarding about harvesting your own vegetables and sharing them at the dinner table with friends and family. Experts at Atrium Health Navicent say now is the time to get started on your fall garden.

The University of Georgia Extension advises that cucumbers and squash should be in the ground by Aug. 31. This month is also a great time to start plants for broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale and onions in a half-shaded area for setting out in September.

Wait for cooler temperatures in September for planting or transplanting beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, collards, lettuce, mustard, onions, radishes, spinach and turnips. September is also when you should plant your second crop of collards, turnips, cabbage, mustard and kale.

“The time and effort put into growing your own fruits and vegetables can pay off big in terms of exercise, control over chemicals used and being invested in eating your own crops,” said Dr. Sarah Nafiza Choo-Yick, an Atrium Health Navicent family medicine physician. “Along with eating healthier, gardening is great exercise. During the summer, the best times to garden are in the mornings to lower your risk of heat illness.”

Gardening is a hobby that can be beneficial for everyone – young and old. Residents at Carlyle Place, a Life-Plan Community of Atrium Health Navicent, take pride in maintaining a garden and enjoying the harvest, especially fresh tomato sandwiches.

The garden has been going strong since 2001, and Tommy Goings oversees it with the help of other residents.

“I first started ‘playing’ with the garden for exercise. I’d walk over and pull weeds. I don’t necessarily want to work in the gym in an exercise class, but I do want my exercise,” Goings said. “It’s become one of my favorite parts of the day. You can see something come to life that you’ve planted and it’s great therapy and wonderful exercise. It’s good for my brain health, too.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gardening can help individuals stay active, and active people are less likely than inactive people to be obese or have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer and premature death.

Although gardening is great exercise, it’s important to keep safety in mind:

• Drink lots of water and stay hydrated.

• Wear long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats, sun shades and sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 30 or higher.

• Wear gloves to lower the risk for skin irritations, cuts and certain contaminants.

• Keep harmful chemicals, tools and equipment out of children's reach.

• Bend with your knees and not your back.

• Before you start gardening, make sure your tetanus/diphtheria (Td) vaccination is up to date and ask your doctor if you need any other vaccinations.

• Be mindful of the humidity.

• Take breaks often and stop working if you experience breathlessness or muscle soreness.

• Pay attention to signs of heat-related illness, including high body temperature, headache, rapid pulse, dizziness, 0nausea, confusion or unconsciousness.

About Atrium Health Navicent

Atrium Health Navicent is the leading provider of healthcare in central and south Georgia and is committed to its mission of elevating health and wellbeing through compassionate care. Atrium Health Navicent provides high-quality, personalized care in 53 specialties at more than 50 facilities throughout the region. As part of the largest, integrated, nonprofit health system in the Southeast, it is also able to tap into some of the nation’s leading medical experts and specialists with Atrium Health, allowing it to provide the best care close to home – including advanced innovations in virtual medicine and care. Throughout its 125-year history in the community, Atrium Health Navicent has remained dedicated to enhancing health and wellness for individuals throughout the region through nationally recognized quality care, community health initiatives and collaborative partnerships. It is also one of the leading teaching hospitals in the region, helping to ensure viability for rural health care for the next generation. For more information, please visit