According to the Nature Conservancy, fewer Americans are spending time in outdoor activities, which could have a serious impact on our environment.
This was one of the stories on the NBC evening news last night.
The Nature Conservancy conducted research that revealed Americans are spending more time with indoor activities, such as the Internet, electronic games and movies and less time at outdoor activities such as camping, fishing and hiking. In fact, the percentage of the American population enjoying the outdoors is at an all-time low.
Although I haven’t seen the research, my own observations of how people spend their leisure time tells me this is probably true.
The reason this is worrisome is that with fewer people spending less time at nature-based activities, nature will become unappreciated and unexplored. If we learn everything we know about nature from the television, our first-hand understanding and appreciation of the importance of clean air and healthy soil and forests and abundance wildlife is diminished.
It’s interesting, too, that participation in outdoor activities is down at the same time there are record numbers of people who are overweight and obese.
I wonder how many of us consider visiting a local nature park, hiking or going to the seashore among the weekend entertainment options of movies and eating out? I know the last time I suggested a hike to Calvert Cliffs State Park to a friend-who-shall-not-be-named I was met with the “you must be mad” expression. We went to an Indian restaurant instead.
So what do we do to reverse this trend? How can we as individuals encourage outdoor activities, particularly those that respect the environment and encourage conservation efforts?
There is a simple reason for the fact that I’ve not been blogging as much lately. It’s because I have a new part-time job. It’s called “working out.”
I am not kidding about it being a part-time job. I must show up or I don’t get the reward. It is hard work. And it takes a lot of my time and energy.
Some days I like my part-time job—like when I can do my cardio sentence on the treadmill next to someone I know so we can chat or when some fellow flirts with me just a little bit or I imagine that some fellow is flirting with me just a little bit.
Other days I pretty much hate it—like when I would rather be eating a whole vat a macaroni and cheese while reading a trashy novel.
When I do my exercise at the gym it first involves getting properly dressed. Now, this may seem like a simple proposition to most people. Just put on some sweat pants, a t-shirt and some sneaks, right?
Not me. I am NOT going out in a place where I am going to sweat AND look like a bag lady even before I get started. Besides, what if someone wants to flirt with me?
But here’s the trick. I can’t look like I tried TOO hard. I apparently tried too hard one day and a young, grunge-inspired female instructor at the gym commented: “Oh, don’t you look so nice with your little matching outfit. You’re even wearing makeup!” (In case you missed it, she meant this in the b*^&%y way that genetically blessed 22-year-old women talk to 40-something-year-old women who they think should be home crocheting afghans.) I managed to smile sweetly and say “Thank you. It’s amazing but some people will go in public wearing just about anything, won’t they?”
After getting dressed, there is the 20-minute drive to the gym followed by a five-minute warm-up. Two days a week I pay a nice fellow named Greg to be mean to me. It’s the yuppie version of S&M. He tells me to do things that hurt. I pay him. It takes an hour with the weights and other torture devices. When Greg is finished with me, I am sentenced to at least 30 minutes on the treadmill, bike or elliptical trainer.
When I am not paying Greg to be mean to me I must spend at least one day a week being mean to myself–preferably two days a week. On the non-torture days I simply get off with 45 minutes to an hour of cardio work. And every day I must spend at least 20 minutes stretching. I can do that by myself, without S&M Greg’s supervision.
See what I mean about this being a part-time job?
“What’s the reason for this new-found fitness zeal?” you ask.
No, it’s not a New Year’s resolution. It’s a “lifestyle change.” It’s all a part of my slowing down and taking care of myself so that stress doesn’t put me into an early grave.
I also wouldn’t mind dropping a few pounds to get back into my supermodel wardrobe. After all, it is one of Robin’s Immutable Laws of Gardening that you cannot possibly lose weight by working in the garden. But I’m not being too wacky about that. It’s fitness that counts, right? Not looking like a fabulous supermodel in designer clothes?
One of the little “lifestyle changes” that I’m finding amusing is my step counter. You can buy these babies for five bucks at K-Mart. They are FABULOUS. The basic model doesn’t count mileage, but only steps. Just clip it to the waistband of your fashionable workout pants and off you go.
The idea is that you should aim for at least 10,000 steps a day, including a 30-minute walk. The reason for the official “walk” is that if you only do the 30-minute walk and basically sit on your bottom the rest of the day, you’ll only rack up about 4,000 or even fewer steps. The idea is to incorporate extra physical activity throughout your day.
The experts say activity levels correspond with the following number of steps per day:
-low activity: <5,000 steps/day
-Low activity: 5,000 to 7,500 steps/day
-Mild activity: 7,500 to 10,000 steps/day
-Moderate activity: 10,000 to 12,500 steps/day
-High activity: >12,500 steps/day
Greg (remember S&M Greg?) says I should be aiming for at least 12,000 steps a day. (He would, wouldn’t he?)
Actually, I find that on a day when I don’t do any exercise but do some chores around the house and perhaps a couple of errands, I already get about 7,500 steps. When I add in a 30-minute walk I can easily get 10,000 steps. But 12,000 does take more effort for me. Some of the ways I try to get extra steps:
-Parking waaaaayyy on the far side of the parking lot;
-Carrying things upstairs and downstairs as I think about it rather than putting a little pile on the bottom step to take up at one time;
-Walking outside with the little dogs during potty time rather than just standing there;
-Standing and walking around while I talk on the phone;
-And, my favorite, drinking a great deal of green tea so I have to walk back and forth to the bathroom quite a lot.
So there you have it. If I haven’t visited you lately, it’s because of this new part-time job. S&M Greg says my energy level will start to improve soon so that I’ll be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, yadda yadda. Perhaps I’ll also have the energy to catch up with my blog reading.