I imagine that it started with my generation and television. When televisions began appearing in homes the outdoor play of children began to dwindle. Kids were too busy watching television, and the phrase “Go out and play!” was born. With my children’s generation it has been a technological onslaught with video gaming stations, computers, iPods, iPads, and the occasional television show. My children will vouch that they heard that phrase hundreds of times a day . . . “Go out and play!”
Well, it turns out now that there is some validity in that phrase. The December 2012 issue of Outside magazine has a story (The Nature Cure: Take Two Hours of Pine Forest and Call Me in the Morning) detailing research from Japan that nature—being outside in nature—can lower one’s blood pressure, fight off depression, beat back stress, and even prevent cancer. That’s right! Spending a little time outdoors each day can radically change one’s life for the better. Added to the article are six natural prescriptions for improving the body and mind.
Since Montana is nothing but “outdoors”, and because it cost next to nothing to step out the front door to be in the “outdoors”, they had my attention. I am all for cheap health care plans and the price of this was too good to pass up. So, I read the article . . . in particular, I read the six natural prescriptions for improving one’s body and mind.
First prescription: “Temper your screen time.” Too much screen time—whether it be in front of a television, computer, or game console—is not good for the brain. In fact, it is a brain drain. “Go out and play!” That is the first prescription . . . to get out and get into nature. Go take a walk, go for a run, sit out on the deck, take a hike . . . just do something to get out into the great outdoors and enjoy nature. Studies showed that 50 minutes outdoors increased one’s attention and memory.
My screen time, for the most, is pretty much limited to the computer at work and home. The television is pretty much out of the picture except for an occasional movie or University of Nebraska football game. The way Big Red is playing this year it has not been good for my heart . . . lots of stress with their come-from-behind victories. If they keep it up my “screen time” may decrease by even more. But the real problem is that my body really (and I mean really) likes my easy chair. It is difficult to move once it is seated and comfortable . . . but it has a wonderful view of the great outdoors through the picture window. The authors say that doesn’t count though . . . it is a nice try but it is not getting out to play.
Second Prescription: “Get dirty.” Here the authors didn’t want people to just go outside, they wanted to go outside and get involved with nature—to get dirty! Dirt helps the body grow . . . helps build up its defenses . . . and, besides, who doesn’t like playing in the mud? Sounds good to me except for one irritating tape that keeps playing over and over in my mind . . . I hear my mother’s words as I bust through the door to the great outdoors to play: “Don’t get dirty!” That phrase always seemed to follow the “Go out and play” phrase. Plus, since I do my own laundry . . . I am not sure I really want to spend all day scraping mud and much off my clothing just so my body can pick up a few new microbes here and there to make me healthy.
Third Prescription: “Go blue.” Blue in this case means water . . . bodies of water like lakes and oceans, rivers and creeks . . . living and being around bodies of water brings a 1.5 percent difference in one’s health. It also helps to prevent depression. Here in Montana realtors must know this as properties located near bodies of water are usually triple the price of other properties located down the road and away from the rivers, creeks, lakes, and ponds. It also increases insurance rates, especially after a flood. At the present time I live about a mile from Rock Creek . . . a little over a year ago the Rock Creek flooded and brought about a million dollars worth of damage to houses and properties between us and the creek. I think at that point there wasn’t much benefit for folks living by the creek.
Fourth Prescription: “Train naked.” Before anyone gets his or her hopes up, this has nothing to do with clothing. I know, I know . . . titles can be misleading and this one is. To “train naked” means to leave all the exercise garbage out . . . no heart monitors . . . no pedometers . . . no stop watches . . . no timers . . . no iPods . . . no GPS systems. Leave all the stuff that one “hooks up” in order to hit the great outdoors for a little play and exercise. This stuff does not allow the brain or body to relax as they are always competing to reach goals.
I don’t think this one is going to work for me . . . first of all, I have to start training before I can go naked. Remember that easy chair I mentioned earlier . . . I really, really, really like it. Second of all, even though it was referring to technology and getting out, I wouldn’t look too hot running around naked. There are laws against that sort of thing. And, lastly, I wouldn’t waste my money on buying all of that stuff . . . if I am tired at the end of a workout, then I have succeeded in doing exercise. Who needs a bunch of things telling me that?
Fifth Prescription: “Find your Rhythm.” This one made me flinch a little . . . I am a white, middle-aged male . . . we have no rhythm . . . even after three beers, we just think we do, but we don’t. But the authors were not talking about that sort of rhythm, they were talking about sleep cycles. Nature’s rhythms of light and darkness . . . the balance between the two . . . and how this effects one’s health. They emphasized getting lots of sunshine. This one is tough for me as I leave for work in the darkness, work inside a building for nine hours, and then usually drive home in darkness. The soft glow of a computer screen is sometimes the only light I see during the day . . . it is no wonder I have difficulty falling to sleep at night . . . I’ve been trying to count computer screens!
And, finally, Prescription Six: “Take five—minutes or days.” According to the authors it only take five minutes a day to reap the benefits of stepping out into nature. The authors then go on to reason that if five minutes can bring minimal effects to one’s mind and body, then imagine what five days could do! Thus they recommend that people schedule outdoor moments into their lives . . . take five minutes to walk around the building at work . . . take five minutes during lunch to stroll outside . . . take a coffee break outdoors . . . park on the far end of the parking lot and walk to the door! It kind of sucks that I am reading this article just as winter has announced its presence in Montana . . . no one likes going outdoors when it is a raging blizzard going on outside. Might have to let this one off the hook until next Spring.
So, go out and play! I am all for it . . . less screen time, get dirty, go blue, train naked, find my rhythm, and do it for at least five minutes. I am inspired! If you see a dirty blue naked guy running around your neighborhood looking for some rhythm . . . it’s just me! It is just me enjoying the great outdoors. I find it peculiar that a magazine called Outside has all this great advice . . . you think they are up to something?