Far From Natural
As a society, we are increasingly being lured deeper into the digital realm and further from the natural world. The benefits of being digitally connected are many, however they come at a cost. The more time we get sucked into the feeds our brains crave and become accustomed to, the less time we spend in nature. A recent study conducted by Stanford University revealed that
“Nature experience may improve mental well-being and suggests that accessible natural areas within urban contexts may be a critical resource for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.”
“More than one half of the world population lives now in urban areas, and virtually all countries of the world are becoming increasingly urbanized. –United Nations
The more time we spend in the digital vacuum and exist in an increasingly urbanized society, the greater we handicap our opportunities to get outside, unplug, and connect. For adventurous and fit-minded individuals, there are solutions to reclaim the benefits of being in nature.
Benefits of Nature
- Increased mental well-being
- Physical fitness
- Vitamin D from sun exposure
- Vitamin B12 if your growing your own food
- Improved sleep by reestablishing circadian rhythms
Activity-Based Fitness: Rather than going to the gym this summer, why not get outside and endeavor in something that promotes fitness while having fun? A change of pace from routine is refreshing and there are countless options to get your fit on in the natural world. Walking, hiking, and running are minimalist options that can be done virtually anywhere and require little more than proper footwear. Although getting dirty on my mountain bike is a cherished activity, a ride with the family on our beach cruisers can be exhausting (especially when you have a three year old in tow) and rewarding. Getting in the water for a dip, swimming, or bodysurfing will surreptitiously add an element of fitness to your fun. Although activities like surfing, standup paddle boarding, canoeing, and kayaking require some specialized equipment, they are great summertime options that literally immerse us in nature and bring out kid in all of us. Find an activity you love and you will effortlessly reap the rewards.
Outdoor Fitness Classes: Another alternative to the gym is to join a fitness class that is conducted outdoors. Like seedlings popping up in the garden, as the warm weather hits, so do the number of options for outdoor instructor-led group classes. Bootcamps, yoga, calisthenics classes, and more are merely an Internet search away. Like a gym, most have monthly membership options, but also offer the flexibility of drop-in rates due to the nature of summer travel. It is an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. You may even expose yourself to trainers and methodologies you would not have come across in the traditional gym setting that you can take with you for your home practice.
Green Commuting: Going green this summer allows even more opportunities to get outside and increase your fitness. With proper time management, you can plan a trip that you would otherwise use your vehicle for, and self power the journey. As soon as the weather is agreeable, my wife leads by example by walking to work everyday. Leave your keys on the counter and hoof it on foot with a backpack or hop on your bike for journeys that are congruent with your level of fitness. Greenhouse gasses, as a result of residential transportation, only contributed to 12% of total US Transportation Emissions. However, transportation emissions as a sum combine to be the second largest offender of all US emissions. We can take some pressure off the environment by taking a bite out of emissions and get fit in the process.
Camping: With a small upfront investment, you too can be sleeping under the stars this summer. How much you want to spend beyond acquiring the basics depends on how much comfort, performance, and durability you want out of your gear. At the very least, you will need a tent, flashlights, and a first-aid kit. Sleeping bags, cooking equipment, and other amenities will make the experience more enjoyable, but are not absolutely necessary if your looking to find a patch of ground for the night in a campground that has amenities. The more remote and more independent you plan the camp, the more important of a role your gear will play. You can start off very basic and then simply add more gear to align with your desired level of independence. Camping is an extremely inexpensive getaway to the outdoors once you have gear and opens the door to all nature has to offer in the vicinity of your site. “US Campgrounds” will get you headed in the right direction towards camping opportunities near you.
Vegetable Gardening: First and foremost, backyard vegetable gardening gets you outside. What is also notable is that gardening for food affords you the opportunity to be directly in control of:
- Providing nutritious food.
- Saving money and resources.
- Increasing your fitness.
- Having access to the best tasting food.
Growing your own food gives you option of making every aspect organic in nature. From the seeds, to pest control/weed management, and everything in-between. You have the choice to not put harmful chemicals into the environment and your body. It is also amazing how much money you save by growing your own food. As an example, a $4.00 packet of organic kale seed yielded continuous produce that we ate from June through November. We were also able to blanch an additional 25 gallons that we stored in the dedicated veggie freezer for winter meals. The seeds for this year’s crops cost less than $70.00 in total; the kale yield alone will pay for itself in savings many times over. Gardening is a labor-intensive activity in nature. I gladly trade hours that would have been spent working out for the opportunity to be outside and grow the food that fuels my efforts. Finally, there is simply no argument that harvesting your own food yields the most delicious ingredients for meals. Fruits and vegetables sold in grocery stores are picked before they are ripe in order to avoid rot and provide the longest shelf life. That is good for the grocery store, however the consumer gets penalized with food that does not have the rich flavor and nutrient content of fruits and vegetables that have been allowed to ripen naturally on the vine. Sow and reap; you will not regret it.
For little to no financial investment you can take advantage of the benefits of getting out into nature this summer. Health and well-being are nothing more than a choice away. Set some goals to get outside and challenge yourself to not be complacent another season before the summer passes. Most of all have fun in the process! To learn more, simply connect on the contact page and subscribe below. Have a great summer!
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