I’ve recently embarked on a walking program with a neighbor who shares my physique (short) and has similar goals (weight loss and such). We’ve been walking 3.4 miles around the golf course three mornings a week. Our time is already down under 18 minutes per mile and it’s amazing what a difference 10 miles at that pace can make. At my annual check up my blood pressure was 120 over 70; I haven’t seen those numbers in years.
Two issues of Time magazine in July had articles on ways to improve your health. One focused on exercise—no surprise there. Another explained ways that nature can lead to a healthier you. I was curious to see how I could augment my exercise routine to boost its health benefits. I was especially interested in the intersections of these two areas, since walking around our golf course combines exercise and nature.
Surprisingly, there were only a few areas of overlap. Even more surprising, lower blood pressure—a key health benefit based on my own experience—wasn’t mentioned under exercise, but it was listed under nature. I’ve thought of some other things that weren’t mentioned, though I can’t imagine why not. More on that in a minute.
One common health advantage was reducing the risk of serious cancers (exercising)/ promoting cancer fighting cells (spending time in nature). Another was to stave off depression (and also anxiety, if you’re out in the greenery). After that, it started to get fuzzier to find commonality.
The nature article claimed that even “fake” nature can be helpful. Potted plants (I assume live ones, not plastic), looking out the window at greenery, listening to those New Age CDs. This seems like a stretch to me, but I suppose if one lives in the concrete jungle, it’s better than nothing.
Speaking of stretching, exercising—especially yoga—is credited with having mind-body benefits. Spending time in nature can increase awe. Seems like doing yoga outdoors would maximize both of those benefits. Yoga in the park is a scene in a lot of movies. Remember Robert De Niro in The Intern? Oh wait. That was tai chi.
Soaking in some nature can relieve ADHD symptoms by improving one’s ability to focus. I wouldn’t categorize myself as hyperactive, but I certainly could use some help in that focusing area. Now, where was I?
Oh yes. Things that were missing in the Time articles. One thing not covered in either piece was any reference to how having a pet can improve ones health. Studies show that purring cats can lower your blood pressure. And any dog owner knows that walking Fido helps with weight loss. Imagine the extra benefit we’d get from walking our pets surrounded by Mother Nature! Maybe I’ll put a harness on Stella to see if she likes our golf course. With my luck, she’ll think the sand traps are giant litter boxes.
I’m sure I also read somewhere that exercising in the buff has added benefits. I surfed the Internet and couldn’t turn up a reliable source for this tidbit. There were plenty of references to the fact that the Greeks exercised naked. And quite a few links to videos of what promised to be nubile young women. So I’ll just tell you that “a lot of people are saying” it’s better to work out naked. You can take that to the bank, believe me.
There’s little doubt in my mind that were I to take my 3.4 mile walk in the nude, I’d be healthier. That’s because I’d get my time down to a 5-minute mile in a flash, the sooner to get out of sight of the neighbors. But before I did that, I’d need to get used to walking with a paper bag over my head. Even at a 5-minute mile, someone might recognize me. A community that controls the color of the holiday lights on residents’ bushes wouldn’t take kindly to streaking bushes.