13 Jul 2022

Staying Active and Connecting with Nature

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving. – Albert Einstein.

We can sustain our mind, body and spirit at any age. 

Villagers in Okinawa, Japan are renowned for living long and happy lives. Ikigai* is a book based on research by two authors, keen to find out the reasons for Okinawan’s longevity. The word ‘Ikigai’ translates as ‘the happiness of always being busy’. Part of their long and happy lives is attributed to staying active. 

Okinawans exercise every day in a variety of ways. Rather than strenuous exercise, they keep active on walks and working in their vegetable gardens. They cultivate good habits, turning routine tasks into moments of flow, which create more happy moments. They choose exercises that promote health and longevity - yoga, tai chi and qigong. These forms involve dynamic stretching and joint mobility, combining physical exercise with breath awareness. 

Another book Ageless Workout* shows how we can become mentally and physically fitter as we age. A holistic approach is adopted by the authors, who walk the talk in their daily lives. 

Beyond getting fit, they highlight the importance of an optimistic mindset, developing daily positive habits and having good posture. It takes perseverance, the right attitude and good guidance for us to remain healthy and strong.

Any exercise program should be safe for your experience level and body, improve functionality, challenge but not hurt you, and help you lead a healthy and happy life. Resistance training using weights or bands, is combined with flexibility training, using stretches tailored to your experience and ability. As you learn new techniques, the program can change and adapt. 

There is always something new to learn. Jumping jacks have been added to my fitness routine, as well as more attention to posture, whether sitting or standing.

My Going AWOL* book expands on these ideas, combining the benefits of staying active outdoors and connecting with nature.

Being physically active boosts our energy and confidence; it promotes a ‘can do’ attitude. Staying active is the best kind of health insurance, especially as we get older.

The benefits of spending time outdoors and staying active are well documented. Doing so regularly is the real secret.

Find activities that anchor you and nourish your soul. For me, this includes walking along the seashore, cycling on off-road bike trails, and spending more time in nature.

Being immersed in nature clears our minds and sooths our souls. We deepen our connection with our surroundings when we slow down on bush and coastal outings. Immersing ourselves in nature relieves stress levels; we feel rejuvenated.

Going on shared outdoor adventures with friends strengthens our bonds. Walking in nature lifts our spirits and the conversation flows more freely. We have more time for reflection and to value what’s important – our environment, our relationships and the community around us. 

Sometimes our outdoor adventures take us on a spiritual journey, as happened to me on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which crosses a place viewed as sacred by Māori. 

As we get older, it becomes even more important to stay physically active. – Daniel Lieberman 

Here are some questions to reflect on for staying active and connecting with nature:

  • What kind of physical activities appeal to you?
  • Consider adventures you would like to go on, and how having more (or less) energy would help (or hinder) those experiences. 
  • How do you feel connected to the world around you?
  • Which is your favourite season and why?

* Extracts from my book: Going AWOL – Inspiration and Insights from Adventurous Women On the Loose 

Further reading:

* Héctor García and Francesc Miralles, Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life

* Nathaniel Wilkins and Shebah Carfagna, Ageless Workout: A Guide To Total Transformation, Mind, Body, And Spirit


Mary Somervell

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