Harvard Health Letter

Get a good grip while toiling in the soil

Ergonomic tools for gardeners are not what they're cracked up to be.

With or without green thumbs, more Americans are trying their hand at gardening these days. In some surveys, it now ranks as the country's No. 1 outdoor leisure activity. Garden centers are growing like Topsy.

This may be one of the more healthful trends in contemporary American life. Exercise studies have found that even moderately intense physical activity has profound health effects. Gardening fits beautifully into that no- to little-sweat category — although we're well acquainted with gardeners whose toil is hardly sweat-free and in no way moderate. Horticulture therapy is in the midst of a boomlet, with therapists discovering that gardening seems to help people emerge from a variety of mental and physical quagmires. Even when it's not being delivered as therapy, gardening can be an elixir. Maybe it's the combination of mild, varied activity with being outdoors and the psychological boost from seeing the plants you've tended grow.

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