greening my exercise

I do not like exercising or working out in a gym. I’m not the first person to express this sentiment, so I know I’m not alone.   The thing is, for me, that has meant simply not exercising for most of my adult life.  And, for the most part, this hasn’t been a problem.  I know I got lucky being born with good metabolism, but I’m also a healthy eater, and the two combined have allowed me to remain pretty physically lazy without really being unpleased with the physical results. 

It’s not like any of that is changing too quickly (though, if I’m honest, I do notice it changing) – it’s just that in this re-envisioned and energized life I’ve embarked on, physical laziness just won’t do.  It is suddenly, extremely unappealing. That said, a gym is still completely off my radar.  It’s the combination of sweating in front of strangers, the self-conscious voice in the back of my head, and the general inconvenience of the cost that will probably forever keep me from being a gym member.

Obviously, then, I was excited to hear about a recent study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology confirming that outdoor, or “green” exercise not only gets the heart rate up and burns calories, but also improves and boosts people’s mood and self-esteem.  It’s simple really – here’s what the primary researcher, Professor Jules Pretty, had to say: “For 300,000 generations, humans were hunter-gatherers and farmers.  Yet for the last six to eight generations, we have been living in an increasingly industrialized world. The disconnection from nature is deeply felt.” The study found that just five minutes of being in nature can have a profound impact on a person’s mood. “That small amount of time makes more sense when you see it in the context of where people are coming from—stepping outside from a stressful day, for example,” he says.

These study findings resonate deeply with me.  In the last year and a half, I have found myself actually craving a connection with nature.  I mostly express that desire through trying to grow my own food and work with nature to produce at least part of what I consume.  And I can honestly say that two weekends ago, when my husband and I built our raised beds for a vegetable garden, I felt invigorated and energized by spending so much time outdoors, digging into the earth, and envisioning all that I would grow. 

And it probably explains why I had the best day I can remember in a long time last Saturday when I went for a hike with my husband and our dog.  It wasn’t very strenuous (though I did race Lola up a few hills), but I saw the beginning of spring and touched a natural stream of water and trusted some of the rocks beneath my feet to not give way as I walked out on steep banks.  I felt amazing, in touch with my world, and I became more connected to who I am and my burgeoning calling to be a good steward of the earth.  I have committed to myself to go for a hike at least once a week – and hopefully also take advantage of the awesome urban trails Indianapolis has dedicated to those seeking outdoor exercise. 

Here are some pictures from our beautiful family outing!  (Lola has the super power of camouflaging herself in nature – look hard!)

Tell me this isn’t the cutest duo ever -