Outdoor Activities - The Best Medicine
By Carla Neidigh, Communication Department Consultant
Finally, the long, dark, wet, lonely winter is retreating. Signs of spring are all around. Birds are chattering, and early blooms are emerging. That might have been the sun recently spotted! Many of us have spent recent months hibernating in front of computers to the detriment of our physical and emotional health. We may have become accustomed to the solitude. We could feel trepidation at the thought of returning to a more normal life. Outdoor activities restore us in myriad ways. Scientists have found that we improve our creativity, lessen stress, and even sleep better when we spend time outdoors. Natural light is beneficial to our health. We absorb more vitamin D, which helps prevent heart disease, dementia, autoimmune disorders, osteoporosis, and cancer. Getting a couple of hours per day of natural light can help protect your vision from Computer Vision Syndrome and nearsightedness.
Moderate exercise such as walking or hiking reduces blood pressure, boosts the immune system, and lessens the risk of heart attacks and cancer. Have you heard of Shinrin Yoku ’ (forest bathing)? This Japanese practice of leisurely taking in the forest by walking and observing details while leaving cell phone and stressful thoughts behind has been proven to produce calming neuro - psychological effects, reduce the stress hormone cortisol and energize the immune system.
Speaking of mental health, outdoor activities also reduce mental fatigue and stress. Depression and anxiety can be avoided or improved by time in nature. Exercise produces endorphins, a brain chemical, which enhances mood. Work performance is also impacted by outdoor activities. We concentrate better, improve creativity and short - term memory, and become more alert when we get outside and move. The first step in obtaining these many benefits is investigating all the opportunities available right here in Orange. There are vineyards to explore, parks to play in, and historical sites to walk around and learn about. For those that enjoy the water, how about a paddle on the river, taking the family fishing, or just sitting by the shore enjoying the sun? For the most adventurous, skydiving is offered locally . Check out these websites for details and head outdoors to see what Orange County has to offer. Orange County Parks and Recreation lists activities here: https://orangecountyva.gov/310/Recreational - Activities. Orange County Tourism ’ s website compiles a rich list of local activities: https:// visitorangevirginia.com/. For more details on the health benefits above, visit https:// www.myopencountry.com/benefits - being - outside/.
Photo above: Annie duPont Garden, Orange County Tourism
Page 18 | April, 2021
Photo left: Taylor Park in Orange County, Stephanie Straub
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