Staying active is vital to life and longevity. The human body is meant to move. Without movement your body becomes stagnant and toxic which creates an environment where it is then actually more painful to move and it becomes harder and harder to get out of the rut of sitting on the couch and eating bad food. Movement makes you feel better and makes you healthier. And now it is more important than ever.
I won’t bore you with too much human physiology, so I will break it down and simplify the process. As we all know, muscles move joints throughout the body. Muscle contraction and joint motion can be difficult and slightly painful at first. This phenomenon occurs with most people but especially the individual with arthritic and degenerative changes in the involved joints. The initial pain that is experienced can deter many people from proceeding with the intended activity, but as the joint moves more and more, the joint becomes lubricated and the motion gets easier. Movement also increases blood flow to the joints and soft tissues, which brings healthy nutrients into these areas and eliminates waste products that occur during basic cellular metabolism. Simply by moving, you enable and promote the absorption of “good stuff” into the tissues and remove “bad things” or waste from these areas. When this occurs, your body will naturally start to feel better and movement becomes easier. Skeletal muscle contractions, or muscle movement, also helps circulate lymph through the lymphatic system. The movement of lymph throughout the body is essential for fighting infection. So as we move, the garbage that is collected in our lymphatic systems, is then pushed throughout the body with the aid of muscular contraction, processed and excreted out of the body, eliminating the stuff that makes you feel bad and sick much quicker and more efficiently. As I said before, without movement your body literally becomes stagnant and toxic simply due to the fact that you are not eliminating the “bad stuff” fast enough. It then accumulates in your body and you feel like crap. A cumulative effect occurs as these toxins and metabolic waste build up in the body, further causing tissues to break down, increasing inflammation and thus making it harder and more painful to move.
Obviously there are things that we can do throughout the year to induce movement. Going to the gym, running on the treadmill, etc, etc. But that stuff gets boring in my opinion. This time of year, late winter and early spring, is the most challenging time for finding alternative things to get us moving. The weather is unstable and sunshine can be limited. Sunshine is another very critical component to feeling better and boosting overall health. Sunshine enables the human body to synthesize Vitamin D which is essential for many bodily functions including bone health, immune function and even possibly plays a role in mood and decreasing depression.
So we need to find ways to move this time of year, and it’s an added bonus if the activity of choice is outside so you get the much-needed sunshine and fresh air that our bodies crave and will utilize enabling us to feel better and be healthy.
Here are some ideas of outdoor activities to try during late winter and early spring
Skiing (Downhill or cross country)
Even in late winter and early spring this activity gets you outside and challenges your body physically. The snow might not be ideal, but the results will be the same!
This activity can be performed all year round, but late winter and early spring can create some beautiful landscapes and breathtaking sights you won’t experience the rest of the year. We are very lucky in western Pennsylvania to have the Laurel Highlands and the mountains of West Virginia within an hour or two drive to increase this challenge if we so desire.
You may have to dress a little warmer and dodge some mud during this time of year, but the trail system around western Pennsylvania offers a great opportunity to get out of the house and log some easy miles.
Especially during early to mid-spring, this activity gives you a great opportunity to get outside and move your body. Trout fishing in particular, in one of the many creeks and streams in the area provides a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the outdoors as well as get a pretty good work out as you wade in the creek and cast repeatedly. And you definitely don’t have to be an expert angler to enjoy this activity!
As the weather shifts towards more good days than bad, this activity will provide you with some physical activity outside and productively start grooming your landscape for summer.
As with any physical activity, certain precautions should always be taken. Know your experience level and limits with any activity you do, but don’t be afraid to push and challenge yourself to a certain extent. Don’t do too much too fast and always get adequate rest before and after the activity. Get out and enjoy these chilly days. It will make you feel revitalized after the long winter months and I assure you that the fresh air and sunshine will make you feel better and healthier!