Today is May Day, meaning we’ve made it through another winter, not that we can’t have more snow, of course. Certainly, over the years, we’ve seen lots of snow in May and June—especially over the Memorial Day weekend. But it’s May, time to start scratching the dirt in our gardens and going fishing.
More important, now that cold and snow are less likely to excuse us from getting out, it’s important to get outside. It’s time to unplug the electronics and breathe some fresh air and listen to the birds sing.
Don’t take my word for it. I ran across a Forbes article on the internet about the importance of getting outside. The author, Bruce Lee, wrote about health problems that can be improved simply by getting outside.
He says, “Unless someone is pushing you around in a wheelbarrow,” being outdoors forces you to move around. Just being outside and moving around can improve health problems such as diabetes, obesity, cancer and vascular diseases.
Being outside can help reduce high blood pressure. An Australian study indicates that just being outside can reduce high blood pressure by as much as 9 percent.
Getting outside and in the sunshine can improve mental health, relieve depression and seasonal affective disorder. Spending time outside also seems to help people with dementia issues.
Being out in the sunshine will help the body produce vitamin D, which can strengthen brittle bones.
This one came as a surprise, but spending time outside can improve vision. The author cited a study in China that indicated that school children who had an additional 40 minute period of outdoor activities had a lower incidences of near-sightedness.
Spending time outside can help asthma and lung problems. Certainly, there are times when our outside air can be pretty polluted, but overall, it’s usually better than our indoor air with house dust, molds, tobacco smoke, carbon dioxide, pet dander, asbestos, and more. Our houses, especially after a long winter of being closed up, are a sick mixture of pollutants. Again, get outside and breathe some fresh air and clear the lungs.
Spending time outside can help people with addictions, work stress, boredom and loneliness. Spending time outside, getting some exercise, can help us sleep at night. It can also be good therapy for aches and pains.
While we’re at it, we, as parents, need to take responsibility for getting our children unplugged from their electronics and outside.
A few years back, Richard Louv wrote a book, Last Child in the Woods, about the problem of children not getting outside. Children are suffering from “nature-deficit disorder.”
Last week I read an essay by a friend, Chris Madson, the retired editor of Wyoming Outdoors, and one of the more deep-thinking individuals among our strange tribe of outdoor writers. See www.thelandethic.com for more information.
Chris writes of growing up next to a somewhat neglected piece of forest at the edge of a suburban development. Most every day, he and a few friends would pack a sandwich and disappear, coming home dirty and sunburned in the evening. They learned to identify trees, poison ivy, and the sensation of being on their own.
That brought back memories of my own, growing up on a small farm in Minnesota. We had a pond and a little creek meandering through a cow pasture. That was my little bit of wilderness, and the source of uncounted hours of exploring, fishing, poking hands into mud and catching crayfish. As I got a little older I might have carried a bow and arrow or a .22 rifle.
I might have been a cowboy or a Comanche warrior on my wanderings. In winter I strapped on skis and looked for jackrabbits.
My brother and I also built a treehouse of sorts in small wooded area. There we might have pretended to be Tarzan.
In any event, a standard conversation when I eventually came back to the house was my mother asking, “Where were you?”
“Out,” I’d reply.
“What were you doing?”
“Nothing.” That was sufficient.