verdant walks- 5.10.17
It’s Saturday morning and I am enjoying the quiet: no one else in my family is up yet and my dogs are happily snoring beside me. The sun is fighting its way past the clouds, and I reflect on how, not too long ago, I would have, on a day like this, laced up my sneakers and gone for a hike in nearby Valley Forge Park. But a little over a year ago, I injured my ankle, and the road back (no pun intended) has been slower than I anticipated. I can go for my walks, but they are shorter now, which regularly leads me to think they are not worth the trouble.
We spend much time, at Agnes Irwin and at other girls’ schools, thinking about how to help our girls be well. The National Coalition of Girls’ Schools even produced a recent podcast on innovations in health and wellness programming for girls. It is imperative, we know, that our schools provide opportunities for girls to develop the habits of mind and body that allow them to live full and joyous lives.
Earlier this year, through the Global Girls Inspiration Network, I had the great opportunity to facilitate an online conversation with educators from girls’ schools around the world about how they themselves stay well. The conversation was wide-ranging and included discussions ranging from how small changes in daily routine can have a beneficial impact on our frame of mind, to how institutional ideas can promote, loud and clear, the priority placed on wellness for all.
I imagine there are few out there who would argue with the research that shows the physical and emotional benefits of exercise. Exercise enhances cognitive function, improves muscle tone, and staves off a host of ailments. And so, whatever your preferred method of exercise is, the most important part is to just do it, as the slogan says. However, I would like to make a pitch for my preferred method: walking in the woods.
For me, at this time of year, when trees have fully burst into their spring finery, a verdant walk in the woods is all the salve my soul needs. Upon merely seeing the park in front of me, when I round that final curve to the parking lot, my shoulders relax. Re-tying my shoelaces before the hike up the hillside, I wonder which flowers might be in bloom this time, and I cannot wait to see.
I never listen to music when I walk in our park, because I do not want to be distracted from the beauty that surrounds me or from my own thinking. I find my mind drifting to a challenge I am facing and allow myself to imagine different ways to tackle it. Invariably, I find a resolution that I can work with and feel relieved, my park once again proving its therapeutic prowess.
Research on the benefits of walking is well-documented. Organizations like GirlTrek and Girls On The Run have created whole social movements based on the powerful benefits that occur when we, yes, get moving. Other research has shown that exposure to nature, even if just in a photograph, improves brain function. Is it any wonder, then, that my walks through the park, even when short, are a powerful component of my (healthy) life?
The sun has not yet given up doing battle with the clouds this morning. It is dry out there and the woods are beckoning. Short or not, time to lace up my sneakers.
Wednesday May, 10, 2017 at 11:37AM
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