Hi Readers: From time to time guest bloggers are featured here, and today I have the pleasure of introducing you to the fabulous ladies (and twin sisters!) behind Fun And Fit (http://funandfit.org), Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA. They have made it their business to get all up in our business about how to find the fun in staying fit as we age, something we’re all going to have to deal with – if we’re lucky! Their wide-ranging expertise as professional fitness experts, bloggers, writers, speakers, and much more make them a go-to resource that can’t be beat. And they’re funny! They’ve interviewed each other, as twins are wont to do) and shared their take on the incredible benefits of exercising in nature.
I hope you enjoy! Please let me know your reactions, comments, and your own success story about outdoor fitness in the comments section at the end of the article.
Kymberly: Did you know that people who connect with nature tend to be smarter, happier, and healthier than those who stay indoors? Especially powerful is to exercise outdoors. Certainly movement, whether inside or out, will improve your well being. But when the weather’s nice and the outdoors calls, then double your benefits by going natural!
Something as simple as a walk in a park or green space will stimulate your immune system, enhance your mood, and improve your cognitive skills. In essence, that nature walk mimics the effects of meditation — increasing empathy, decreasing depression, and releasing a cascade of “feel happy” chemicals. Hmm, makes me think about meditating outdoors for a two-fer coupon special!
Alexandra: I’ve also noticed that taking selfies enhances the heck out of my mood. Plus, I get cognitive benefits from checking out my lipstick shade.
Kymberly: According to Dr. John Ratey, author of Go Wild, trail running, for example is increasing in popularity partly because it “closely resemble(s) what we did in our evolutionary past” — we lived nomadic lives outside and had to travel and run to survive. (Go Wild, pg 190) Dr. Ratey further argues that exercising outside strengthens our immune systems. The more our internal ecosystems are connected to the external ones, the better we can stave off autoimmune diseases. A run, walk, mosey, or hippity skippity jog out and about is more natural to our bodies than a sit down in a controlled, insulated indoor environments. Yes, we were born to move and groove.
Alexandra: I want to connect my ecosystem to Colin Firth.
Kymberly: Nature advocate (and probably also a Colin Firth fan, if she knows what’s good and natural), Daphne Miller, MD, in her article “A Prescription For Nature,” http://www.npca.org/news/magazine/all-issues/2014/spring/a-prescription-for-nature.html prescribes outdoor activities for her patients. She believes that time spent in nature could become the next vital sign. For Fun Fit Facts and some pretty images on this subject, check out our post, Nature Lovers Live Longer and Leaner. http://funandfit.org/nature-lovers-live-longer-and-leaner/
No doubt you have also heard that US adults tend to be significantly deficient in vitamin D, which sunshine stimulates. Vitamin D plays an important role in immune and brain functioning, and bone health. It’s also been linked (in a preventive way) to autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and certain types of cancers (um probably NOT skin cancer, but it’s all about balance for we active agers, right?). Insufficient vitamin D is associated with higher risk of Alzheimer’s; sufficient vitamin D intake is associated with improved cognitive performance.
Take a moment to really take this in — like a breath of fresh air that did not come from a can or plug-in scenty thing: When you exercise outdoors, you increase your chances to live leaner, longer, and with less stress! That’s a big deal people! So what are you waiting for? Get out, will ‘ya?!
Alexandra: Er, taking a walk with me is exactly like a breath of fresh air. Just putting that out there.
Dear Randi’s readers: We hope that before you go outside, you sidle over to our website, http://funandfit.org Fun and Fit and subscribe. For starters, you’ll find out how you can youthify via our upcoming free webinar, Transform Aging taking place June 3-4.
International fitness professionals, twins, proud baby boomers, and edu-tainers, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA have been in the fitness industry since the first aerobics studio opened–with them–in Europe, before leg warmers and thong leotards were the rage. They teach, write, and present their programs on land, sea and airwaves. Kymberly is former faculty for the Dept of Exercise and Sports Studies at University of California Santa Barbara: Alexandra edits and writes for IDEA: The Association for Health and Fitness Professionals. Catch them at their blog, Fun and Fit: Active Aging Answers for Boom Chicka Boomers, funandfit.org, or at events you hire them to present at.