The Benefits of Exercising Outside
Thank you, nature, for a truly spectacular day and for reminding me of my good fortune. Despite a looming deadline, I recently decided to take a time-out. Off to the nearby walking trail I went, in hopes of shaking off a late-afternoon slump. Three laps was my goal. That should wake me up without sucking too much time out of my day.
The sky was a peaceful shade of blue, adorned with puffy white clouds. The grass and trees greener than green, thanks to an abundance of rain this year. Birds chirping, dogs yapping, and a sprinkling fountain sang the sweet song of summer.
My energy level rose and three laps turned into four and “hello,” fellow walker. I surprised myself and broke out in a run. OK, not a run. It was more of a jog, but no matter. Lap five, and “hello,” lady in the cute hat, and your little dog, too. And I began to marvel at the experience. Lap six, and “isn’t it an incredible day?”
There was a time when I couldn’t consider the notion of leaving my house without a cane, due to multiple sclerosis. And what was I doing just two summers ago? I was rounding out ten months of treatment for triple-negative breast cancer. Of all the people I passed in our little park, not one could have guessed at those things. This body, for all its scars and history, feels like a million bucks. Oh, it’s not that I don’t have any aches or pains or signs of aging. Of course, I do, but I’m happy to have them.
When I returned home, I took out my little pink appointment calendar from 2011 and there it was. August 19. The date was marked simply, “yay!” signaling my final radiation treatment and what I hoped to be the end of cancer treatment. So far, so good. No, I take that back. So far, it’s spectacular! If 2011 Me could see 2013 Me, she’d be shocked.
I’ve written before about the value of green exercise and there are lots of studies on the subject. When it comes right down to it, I don’t need any studies to tell me what I experience each time I step out into the greenness and take a walk. I experience a heightened awareness of my surroundings and of self. I do my most creative thinking on those walks, as my spirit frees itself from the constraints of my self-imposed “to do” list.
There are many harsh realities in this world and getting caught up in them can pile on the stress. During my green walks, I can unplug and tap into the positive side. Green walks provide me with a heightened sense of appreciation for the stuff of life, and it lasts well beyond the walk. Green exercise makes me a happier, more productive person.
Got a few minutes? Take a stroll in a park or down a treelined street. Walk, jog, run. Use a cane, roll in a wheelchair. Bicycle, scooter, skateboard. Go alone, take a friend, take your spouse, take the kids. Take a deep breath. Notice. Daydream. Savor.
Post photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock