The pandemic has most of us feeling uneasy, isolated and uncertain about the future. Outings that we use to take for granted such as going to the grocery store or restaurant, or gym, have become angst ridden with new Covid variants that prompts mask and social distancing mandates. As a result, we’ll often resort to ordering food online or joining a Zoom fitness class so that we don’t have to leave the safety and comforts of our dwellings. As much as I’m thankful for Zoom saving my business and for my members using Zoom to improve and maintain their fitness, it comes with a consequence if we don’t get outside more.
A recipe for optimal health is to stay physically active and get plenty of sunshine, just as our early ancestors did, as well as what you did when you were kids. I’m sure many of you can relate to growing up with parents who encouraged you to get outside and play! That was the case for me during my childhood, especially during the summertime when my mom shooed me and my siblings out of the house in the morning and we were only expected back for a quick lunch, or when it was dinnertime. During those carefree summers, my childhood friends and I explored the open spaces and natural surroundings near our neighborhood. We ran through open fields playing tag and other imaginary games. We hiked along creeks, stepping and jumping from rock to rock, or balancing on fallen trees. We crawled through bushes and climbed trees…swinging, pulling and pushing ourselves to our physical limits, all the while having fun and getting plenty of exposure to the outdoors. Plus, we were acquiring movement skills, physical adaptations, and social-emotional development from being with friends in our natural surroundings.
For most of human history, we have lived close to nature; however, within the past two-hundred years, there’s been a profound disconnect with the natural world. Workers have migrated from farms, to working inside factories and offices. Advancement in technology and our craving for comfort and ease of life have changed how most of us spend our leisure time–mostly sitting indoors, basking in the glow of a screen instead of sunshine. Today, the average American spends 90% of their life indoors, usually in a state of idleness. Combine that with the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic, people’s mental health and well-being are greatly impacted. Inactivity and isolation have led to increases in depression, anxiety, loneliness, sleep disorders, as well as muscular-skeletal problems from living a cloistered, sedentary life.
If there was ever a time get outside and reconnect with nature and fellow human beings, now is the time. It’s a safe remedy often overlooked for the emotional angst of living during the pandemic as well as physical ailments that might be plaguing us. I try to make it a daily habit to step outside for a walk and fresh air, sometimes with a family member or neighborhood friend, but often alone with my thoughts or listening to my favorite music or podcast, or just being present and paying attention to my breathing and surroundings.
If we want to thrive both physically and mentally for the rest of our lives, we can start by getting outdoors and learning the health benefits.
Physical benefits of outdoor activity:
- Enhances motivation and greater likelihood to keep exercising
- Helps prevent injuries and the body may heal faster
- Has a positive effect on body composition
- Helps to prevent cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses
- Enhances greater emotional power and control
- Decreases stress and anxiety
- Decreases the incidence of depression
- Improvements in mental acuity
- Deepens environmental awareness and connectedness with the natural world
- Promotes social connection
If you want more information on how nature can protect our well-being during the pandemic, please read https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/four-ways-nature-can-protect-your-well-being-during-pandemic
For more insight to our “nature-deficit disorder”, read this recent article from The Atlantic, titled This Is No Way To Be Human https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2022/01/machine-garden-natureless-world/621268/
Share Your Wellness Thoughts: During the pandemic have you taken advantage of getting outside more where it is safer to exercise than indoors? What’s your favorite outdoor activity?