The Best Exercise Includes a Dose of Nature

The British Ecological Society’s blog posted about a recent research article titled “What Is The Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise For Improving Mental Health?”

The article is a meta-analysis (that is, it synthesizes research from many previous research studies about the topic), and sums up its results with the following statement:

“This study confirms that the environment provides an important health service.”

And I have only two questions…

1. REALLY?!!! and,

2. AND?!!!

First, this information is anything but new.  Anyone who has every gone hiking, who has ever taken a vacation in the mountains, or in the woods, or who has ever played in a creek behind their house, knows firsthand the difference between “exercising” (moving) outdoors in a natural environment versus doing the same or similar activity indoors or in a “built” (human-made) environment.

I’m talking here, not only your own first-hand experience, but also about the incredible amount of scientific research that shows the benefits of moving in a natural environment.  The paper quoted above used a lot of that research to make its own (redundant) point!

I’ve pointed out at least one piece of this literature in previous posts (here, here, and here).  So…it’s not even new to this blog!!!

However, even with that knowledge, and even with the rapidly mounting evidence, and my (and others’) incessant blog postings on the subject, it continues to be an “issue.”  That is, people continue to choose Wii, and to choose justifying their Wii time, to actually going out into the woods and taking a hike.

I want to say one thing before I finish this post up with a final point, and that is this -People seem to have a tendency to feel better once they talk about something.  That is, they feel little compulsion to do anything about a problem once it’s been aired, once it’s out in the open.  In fact, on a few occasions I’ve seen this behavior up close and in person.  Let me give one example:

There was a family that I spent a lot of time with.  Everyone was overweight in that family, and they were aware of it.  In fact, they would almost always say things like “We’re all fat in this family.”  Or “We need to lose weight.”  Or “We need to throw out all of that junk food in the pantry, and just have a bowl of fruit out for snacks.”

One time, I actually offered to help with the clearing of the pantry.  I said “Ok, that’s a good idea!  Let’s do that now!”  Well, the younger children of the household weren’t home, and the adults decided that it would be too traumatic to just throw everything out all of a sudden.  So we didn’t clear out the pantry.

There is a reason we are not connecting to nature.  That we are not making this connection.  That we don’t go out into the woods and take a hike.  There is a reason you don’t do it.  What is that reason?

My final point is this – The above question seems a good question for science to ask.  Why isn’t science asking that question?

Here’s my answer(s) to that question:

1. It’s not the job of science to do anything about it.  It’s the job of science to ask questions and get answers.  But science is not a field of activisim. It is a field of questioning and answering.  That’s all.  Expecting action based on gathered knowledge is a bad habit (one which I’m trying to get rid of).

2. Science doesn’t want to ask a question that invalidates itself.  I think part of the answer, of why we are not connecting to nature, in spite of overwhelming evidence that we should, has to do with the fact that our culture is largely based in a scientific approach to things.  That is, nature and science (at least, the way we’re accustomed to doing science) are largely contradictory.  So, science might find its own relativism, and find its own value being questioned, were it to ask “Why aren’t we connecting to nature.”

A couple of possible answers…what do you think?!

PDF Converter    Send article as PDF   

The Myth of “Production”

There are a few myths our culture upholds that are fundamental, and damaging. One is the myth of “production.” That is, that “production” is the key to “success” (our cultural definition of success).

Where does the myth come from? Seems like a combination of sources. First, our Puritan heritage stressed work-as-suffering as a (religiously) necessary part of life. Self-denial, even in the Stoic sense, was a popular attitude in that culture.

I’d say that carries us through the 18th Century. In the 19th, the Industrial Revolution took hold. Then, that Puritan ethic drove a new idea of “work.” I think it was here that production took hold as king. Make more, faster…do more work in less time. More production. People realized that if they did this, they’d make more money. Money takes over.

In the 20th Century we had a bunch of wars. Production served us well (seemingly), because we could respond quickly to the demands of the world at that time (need tanks, planes, bombs? We can do it, fast!).

Now, in the 21st Century, we’re still trying to push this production. But there’s no direction to it. Any production is equally meaningful. What is that? Postmodernism?

Anyway, it has led to things like “clean” energy, “green” products, etc. Which, on the surface, seem like really good ideas. Many modern pundits for the environmental movement want to see more production in “green” areas.

The only problem with that, is that those methods all are still PRODUCTION, which BY DEFINITION takes energy and creates waste.

Creating the types of waste we create is antithetical to any truly “green” initiative.

What’s the solution? STOP producing so much. Stop consuming so much. And when you do produce/consume, stay close to nature…

Free PDF    Send article as PDF