The Great Outdoors

Jane Brody’s Valentine’s Day column, “Time to Get Out, for the Body and Mind,” touched on several themes I’ve been thinking about this week, with winter taking a break for spring-like temperatures in the Northeast US.

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“The bottom line? Being healthy is not just a matter of avoiding illness. It also means feeling strong and vibrant, able to walk up stairs, carry a child or bag of groceries and otherwise perform life’s activities without becoming breathless or exhausted, no matter what your age.” So concludes Ms. Brody in her treatise on the mind-body benefits of increasing outdoor time in our lives. Us suburban mice limit our walking and strolling compared to our city and rural cousins, with couch-potato syndrome rampant in our cozy homes. We drive from our garages to our malls, park as close as we can to our shopping destination, drive one block to our next destination, and so on, and so on.

Our children have clearly adopted our priorities. I recently read Richard Louv’s tome, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder,” in which he laments the lack of unstructured free outdoor play in our children’s lives. I couldn’t agree more and actually said so in my Labor Day post. Perhaps NDD is one contributing factor to the rise in ADD; with the rising concern about stimulant meds, maybe we should be thinking more about lifestyle changes as part of the treatment plan. But I digress – that’s for another day, and way too complex a topic for a side-bar.

Is it possible to get our kids outside, building snow forts and running on the beach, in these safety-challenged times? Hard to imagine my kids riding their bikes a few blocks away to the neighbor’s house like I did. But we owe them that chance, we do.

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