While domestic detention protected us during the worst part of the pandemic, good health always begins with a regular routine of physical activity. The evidence is clear: Those who stay active show a lower risk of chronic illness and a more positive outlook on life.
Now that summer is approaching and Covid restrictions have been eased, we must all answer nature’s call. One might speculate that those of us who live in a rural community are more likely to achieve recommended levels of physical activity than our urban and suburban counterparts. Unfortunately, the opposite is the case.
Across the country, approximately 21% of the adult population achieve the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week. In rural areas these rates are disproportionately lower. Correspondingly, a decreased activity rate of the rural population puts a higher risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.
With the rural population accounting for 15% of the US population, it is imperative that we reverse this alarming trend.
Maybe we can all start celebrating June as an outdoor month. As early as 2019, the US Senate officially declared June Nature Month, and in 1998 President Clinton added a directive to create Nature Week. All of this is part of an effort to promote healthy, active outdoor fun by introducing children and first-time participants to outdoor activities near their home.
We all live in a region that is rich in opportunities for physical activity in the open air. Here are five good reasons to go outdoors:
- Your vitamin D levels rise. Sunlight naturally produces the activation of vitamin D. Studies suggest that this vitamin helps fight certain conditions, from osteoporosis and cancer to depression and heart attacks. However, it is important to limit your sun exposure and always wear a safe SPF to protect your skin from harmful UVB rays.
- You will burn more calories. When the goal becomes to get outside, it means that you spend less time in front of the TV and computer and more time for walking and other things that get the body moving.
- You will be happier. It is believed that exposure to sunlight increases the secretion of a hormone in the brain called serotonin, which has been linked to improving mood and helping us feel calmer and more focused.
- You can heal faster. Researchers have found that patients who spend time outdoors during their recovery have fewer pain relievers, fewer complications, and shorter hospital stays.
- You will age more gracefully. According to a study in the Journal of Aging and Health, adults over 70 who spent time outdoors had fewer problems sleeping, complained of less pain, and enjoyed improved mobility and ability to perform daily activities.
Inspiration is all around us, with tons of ideas on how to have fun in our outdoor community. Here are just a few suggestions:
- San Lorenzo Park: This picturesque park on the Salinas River lies at the foot of the Santa Lucia Mountains. San Lorenzo has immaculate everyday facilities including picnic areas, a gazebo, playgrounds, horseshoe pits, volleyball courts, softball courts, and a walking path along the river. It has picnic areas for large groups and is home to the Monterey County Agricultural and Rural Life Museum.
- Pinnacles National Monument: Less than 20 miles from King City, these spectacular remains of an ancient volcano should be on everyone’s list. Massive monoliths, towers, steep-walled canyons and rubble passages are waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re hiking, bird watching, picnicking, or rock climbing, Pinnacles is a local treasure indeed.
- King City Skatepark: The renovation of the park has now been completed several weeks ahead of schedule and reopened in early May. The design with new ramps was developed as part of a public participation process to include input from local youth. The city will host a formal grand reopening ceremony on June 21, International Skateboard Day. However, please wear appropriate safety equipment.
- King City Golf Course: The 9-hole short course, opened in 1953, offers 2,833 yards of golf with a par 35. The public course remains open all year round and offers four tees of varying degrees of difficulty.
Be careful. The benefits of spending all those precious hours outdoors can quickly be negated by bad eating habits.
We live in the Salinas Valley, known as America’s Salad Bowl. We all need to make better use of the premium around us. With products peaking in the summer months, now is the perfect time to enjoy the best of nature by eating fresh vegetables and fruits.
We can buy these products while helping our small family businesses by shopping at local farmers markets and farm stalls or participating in Community Support Agriculture (CSA) programs. Soledad’s Certified Farmers Market (100 block off Soledad Street) is scheduled to reopen on Thursdays from 4pm to 8pm on Thursdays in July. For an updated list of markets in each California county, visit cdfa.ca.gov.
In general, farmers markets regularly offer access to fresher, healthier food than most grocery stores. And access to fresh fruits and vegetables is an important factor when it comes to community health and wellbeing.
We live in a fast paced world and it’s important to know where our food comes from, who grew it and how it was grown. Our connection to the foods we eat has never been more important. Shopping at our local farmers market is a great way to support healthy lifestyles and the community at large.
We have all been waiting to see light at the end of a very long tunnel. We can see this light now, partly in the form of summer sun. Being outside is the safest and healthiest place right now. So let’s fill all of our calendars with activities that naturally lead to healthier lifestyles.
Remember, the biggest challenge is getting started on your doorstep.