No Bites, Burns, Or Stings: A Complete Guide To Feeling Good While Gardening
There’s no doubt that gardening, on the whole, is good for your health. There’s a myriad of reasons for this, from the suggested antidepressant microbes found in soil to the general benefits of being outside in the fresh air. It’s therefore safe to conclude that gardening is good for your mind and your body.
Of course, anyone familiar with time spent tending to a garden or pottering about in their shed will be very familiar with the fact that sometimes, gardening hurts. In fact, sometimes gardening hurts a lot. It is – after all – a physical activity, which has the ability to burn around 200 calories per hour depending on what you’re doing. If you’re able to burn calories at that kind of rate, it’s a good sign that your body is being strained and tested as you move around.
This can lead to discomfort all by itself, but then there are the critters that want to make things worse. Spiders, ants, and a whole host of crawling insects don’t see you as a friendly gardener hanging out in their habitat; to them, you’re lunch, and they quite fancy a bite. The result for you is itchy, raised lumps that can make you want to throw yourself back indoors and swear never to set foot in the garden again.
Are these perhaps just a necessary part of being a gardener? The pain and trouble that you have to go through to have your outdoor space looking as you want it, and you feeling and focusing on the benefits that gardening can bring? A bite here, an aching back there – perhaps it’s just payment for your time spent outdoors…
… Of course it isn’t. If you’re experiencing discomfort while gardening, then there’s a good chance you’re not taking the necessary precautions to keep yourself feeling good. There’s no need for your favorite hobby to be one that causes you physical issues, especially when the fixes for the above issues (and more besides) are relatively simple.
If you want to make your experience all the more pleasant, then taking a few simple precautions and remedies can make all the difference in the world. So before you head out on a pleasant summer day for another day of toil in the soil, glance over the solutions below and see which could make your gardening life better.
Fight The Bites: Controlling Insect and Arachnid Attacks
The chances of being bitten by a creepy-crawly while gardening are very high, especially if you’re putting your hands anywhere near their natural habitat. To an extent, it’s hard to blame the critters for that – how would you feel if a giant came and put their hands in your home?
Nevertheless, it’s your garden and they are just squatters – so you have a right to not be attacked every time you venture outside.
By far the best way of dealing with this is with an insect repellent, which you can wear all over your skin. Don’t be tempted to think that just because you’re wearing clothes that that area of skin is protected; these bugs are small and they will think nothing of crawling under clothes to sink their teeth into you. You need to effectively douse yourself with insect repellent.
While this will keep you free of many insects, it might not be enough to cover all the critters you might encounter in your backyard. Spiders, for example, are notorious for not being affected by bug sprays – probably because they’re not insects, but arachnids.
To deal with the possibility of spider bites, then, you need a different strategy. Keep as much of your skin covered as possible and wear gloves, especially if you’re working in a shaded area – most spiders will prefer to hover in the shade. You can also use essential oils to repel spiders in homemade concoctions, which can come in handy if you can’t help but be working in a spider friendly area.
In most circumstances, the above solutions will be more than sufficient to keep six and eight legged creatures away from you. If, however, something gets through, then don’t ignore bites to be dealt with when you get back inside. Take a break and go and treat them as soon as you notice them. A poultice and cold compress can help bring down any swelling, while an over-the-counter antihistamine can help if you have had an allergic reaction to the bite.
Not So Fun Sun: Protecting Your Skin
To an extent, sun protection is something that most of us know about. Few people willingly venture into hot sunlight without some kind of protection against the harmful UV rays, so let’s not insult your intelligence by suggesting this is something you need to be informed of.
However, are you sure you’re using your sunscreen in the right way?
For example: it’s best to reapply sunscreen every two hours, and more if you get wet (so an errant hose or working on a water feature). This keeps the chemical screen between your skin and the UV intact. If necessary, set a timer to ensure that you remember to reapply constantly.
Secondly, sunscreen can only reduce the damage for a period of time. The best form of protection against the sun when you’re out in the garden is to cover yourself. Wear a hat and long, loose clothes made from a breathable material. If you feel it’s too hot for this, then take a spray bottle of water and spritz the clothes (not your skin directly) as and when you feel the need for some cooling. This can make a big difference to how you feel, allowing you to stay protected for longer.
Aching Arms, Legs and Back: How Gardening Punishes Your Body
As alluded to in the opening paragraph: gardening is hard work. Think about even the most simple of gardening chores; weeding.
Just to do this, you are in constant motion. You’re bending, pulling, exerting pressure, twisting – it’s going to work an awful lot of your musculature.
All of this means it’s somewhat inevitable that you’ll begin to feel the strain. That means you need both preventative measures, and a few ideas on how to soothe aching muscles.
The best form of prevention can be found in some sort of strapping or support tape. This allows you to maintain freedom of movement, without having to be concerned with over-exerting yourself. The support is there as a backup, lending a hand when so your body doesn’t have to take the full strain. It’s especially important to use support bandages and tape if you have any old injuries that are prone to acting up when you exert yourself.
It’s also important to know your limits. Sometimes, gardening causes us to have to bend, move, and contort our bodies in a particular way. It might be bending to spread seeds or craning upwards to fix part of the fence, but the result is the same: you’re holding yourself in an awkward position to get a job done. While this is happening, it’s important for you to acknowledge when “awkward” transitions into uncomfortable and take a break. It might slow the progress down a little bit, but if you don’t do it, then you’re going to be paying for it in muscle aches and pains for days to come.
If you do push things too far (and after all we just said! Tut!), then recovery should be your focus. A great method of breathing new life into tired muscles is to take a magnesium bath, which is an inexpensive way of providing your muscles with a nutrient they might otherwise miss. Magnesium baths also soften skin, so they’re perfect for those calluses we all get from a day of gardening.
Keep Your Mind Sharp: Think Fluids
If you have been out gardening – potentially in the hot sun – then you need to think carefully about your fluid intake. And by “think carefully”, we mean: make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Think of how you would usually take a water bottle with you if you were hitting the gym or going for a walk; gardening is no different. You’re going to sweat, and that means you’re going to need to replace both the fluids and the electrolytes that you lose during that process.
Don’t drink soft drinks or anything containing caffeine when you’re gardening – they’re just going to dehydrate you faster. Instead, elect for water with a sprinkle of salt in the bottle. Pink Himalayan salt contains the most nutrients, but normal table salt will do if you don’t have any other options on hand.
Make sure you drink often, ideally clipping the water bottle somewhere on your person so you don’t forget how necessary it is. If you don’t, you could find yourself becoming dehydrated very quickly. If you feel foggy or that you’re struggling to make decisions or move as you usually would, then dehydration is the primary cause. To rehydrate, it’s best to sip water at regular intervals rather than downing a lot all in one go, so try to remember to do so.
Enjoy your gardening, knowing your body is protected and you have nothing but a beautiful outdoor space to look forward to!