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October 28, 2021

Finding Play & Fun in Exercise: 10 Reasons I Walk in Nature.

Hearted by

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Today was the day.

I could hardly wait for school to be over so I could rush to the outdoor skating rink and lace up my skates. The ice was ready and so was I!

It seemed I was flying as I felt the cold wind in my face and raced around the rink with my friends. My sense of exhilaration and joy was not diminished even though my frost-bitten toes tingled as I warmed up by the wood stove.

As a young girl growing up on the prairies, I played outside no matter what the weather. Building snow forts in the drifts, tobogganing, and soccer in the snow kept me warm. In the summer, there was soft ball, bike riding, and swimming. Even the chores required physical activity.

Weeding the garden, planting potatoes, and harvesting beans kept me active. I never thought about “exercise” as a concept.

Until we moved. In grade seven, I had my first experience of “physical education.” I was expected to be part of activities like gymnastics, cheerleading, and team sports like basketball. I had never tried any of these activities, and I felt lost. Instead of hanging out with friends and playing for the fun of it, I became aware of the competition and pressure of “getting it right.” I felt paralyzed with shame as I struggled to fit in.

Why would I want to participate in these challenging activities in an atmosphere of judgment? I lost any desire to move, and did the bare minimum to get a passing grade.

As time went by, I discovered sports that got my attention. Joining the badminton club was a lifesaver. I enjoyed the game, and I made new friends along the way. Years later, I discovered the pleasure of long distance running and completed several marathons in midlife.

The secret for me was finding activities that were fun. Running was a sport that I could do on my own, or with my running group. There was a spirit of collaboration and support as we trained and I felt alive and strong as I ran at my own pace. I was learning the benefits of regular movement and this motivated me to keep going.

There are seasons in life, and so my physical movement has shifted from marathons and weight training at the gym to walking daily. I am fortunate to have access to wooded trails for my walks. I have come to count on my walks with Mother Nature for much more than exercise.

Ten Reasons I Walk in Nature

1. Choosing to walk out of doors brings me many benefits. I breathe in the clear air of an early fall morning, and I hear the sound of the river beside me. I look up and see the clouds in the sky with tree tops etched against the blue. The changing colours of the leaves and the brown foliage remind me of the cycles of the season. I am reassured that change is part of the rhythm of life, and is not something to fear. Acceptance fills my heart and I breathe in the knowledge that there is nothing to fix.

2. As I walk, stressful emotions move through my body, mind, and soul. I head to the woods and anger, anxiety, and sadness are released as I stomp my feet, or meander along. Sometimes tears accompany the beads of perspiration on my face, and at times my voice shouts out in the canopy of trees above me. However it happens, the emotions are allowed to flow through my system. By the time my walk is done, I feel increased peace and calm.

3. I love to sweat while I am exercising! I enjoy challenging my body to make it up a hill or finish a stretch of the trail in record time. I am competing with myself these days. It’s not about winning a race. It is a personal goal that I set for myself. The pain in my muscles after a strenuous hill climb is a message that I am getting stronger.

4. I feel energized after a long, brisk walk. Even though my legs might feel tired, I see myself as strong, fit, and healthy. I am glowing and joyful as I celebrate the completion of my goal for that day.

5. Moving my body is an investment in my future. I know that a sedentary lifestyle is a recipe for chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart problems. As I move my body regularly, I am building a foundation for improved mobility, balance, and strength as I grow older. Reaching the age of 70 doesn’t mean I need to experience declining physical fitness!

6. I am a grandmother who wants to leave a legacy of enjoying physical movement for my grandchildren. When my family sees me walking and hiking, and on a regular basis, this normalizes the concept of physical fitness at any stage of life.

7. I want to be strong in order to play with my grandchildren. Our family loves to hike, and I am able to trek along the wooded, hilly trails together with the rest of them. If I didn’t move my body daily, I would not be able to join them. So, I pick up my hiking poles and off we go!

8. Moving my body is a spiritual experience. Whether it is a fast walk or a stroll, I am mindful of the scent of the earth after a rainfall, or the sounds of the birds in the trees. I am grateful for a healthy body and for the beauty of creation. My soul is nourished along with my physical body.

9. I move my body as an act of honouring what it does for me. Some days when I walk, I create a mantra of thanksgiving for my body. I speak to each part and celebrate what it does for me, from the soles of my feet to the top of my head. Rather than focusing on what I wish was different, I am overcome with gratitude. It is my way of “giving back” to my body, rather than complaining or taking it for granted.

10. It is a sacred form of self-care to move my body. I sleep better, I feel a sense of possibility, rather than overwhelm, and I feel joyful as I walk, hike, and play.

What is your favourite way to move your body?

There are many options and I trust that you find something that brings you pleasure and fulfillment. Listen to your own inner wisdom for guidance to what is best for you.

I wish you much joy as you discover the benefits of regular exercise!

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