5 Ways to Access the Benefits of Nature in an Urban Environment

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Living in the Seattle Metro area means being surrounded by the tech minded as well at the beauty of nature. Most people know that going for a hike or a walk in the park has health benefits, but they can’t find enough time to away from their busy lives to do it. As a health coach and personal trainer, I encourage my clients to do what they can. Any small step will positively impact your health. 

Recently I read an amazing book called Move Your DNA, by Katy Bowman. This book has inspired me to make many changes in my own life towards better health. Here are 5 ideas I gleaned from this book and share with all my clients.

  1. Get off the Beaten Path. Almost no where in nature will you find flat hard surfaces. Our bodies are designed to walk on uneven ground. We, in fact, need it to be healthy. Maybe you take a short walk to a coffee shop during the day, or to lunch. Maybe you walk from your car to the office door. Try to walk on the patch of grass next to the sidewalk, or step up and down off the curb. Is there a large rock to step up on? Look at landscaping materials in a whole new way. Do anything to break up walking on a flat surface. It may seem like a small thing, but it’s not.  
  2. Look far away. Before office buildings and houses, we were outside with a long range of sight. Our eyes had many ways to function and could take time to relax. When you are inside, or on a screen, your eyes cannot relax. They need to look far away. Even if you cannot go outside, at least go to a window and get a look far, far away. Try to do this multiple times a day or even once an hour. Your eyes will thank you.
  3. Take a break from furniture at home. If we spent most of our day on a hike, we would not be sitting in chairs or a sofa. There may be rocks to sit on, or we could sit on the ground. If you simply sit on the floor at home instead of plopping on your sofa, your body can improve. Being on the floor requires more muscles to work and can greatly improve hip mobility. You will have to move around to remain somewhat comfortable. This is a good thing! If you are new to this idea, sit on a cushion and bolster yourself a bit until you get more used to it. It’s like watching Netflix and going to yoga at the same time.
  4. Find a way to go barefoot. Contrary to cultural belief, our feet are not designed to be in a shoe. I know most people are not going to ditch their new Keens, but try going barefoot a little bit. Like in your house at the very least. Even better would be to venture out in your backyard barefoot, now and then. By all means, let your children go shoeless as much as possible. Think of it like taking a vitamin through your feet. 
  5. Reach above your head. How often do your arms travel above your cranium? Unless you are from NYC and talk with your hands, I bet not often. We are designed to reach. Our shoulders, arms and hands need it. I like to set an app on my phone to beep every 15 minutes. One thing I do is reach up high. I’ll even put my arms on a wall and lean into that reach. Sometimes when I hear my phone beep, I do other things, but at the very least I do something different. If we were in a natural environment, we’d be moving lots of different ways. Think about how you can move your body more.

Brooke Shumaker is a health coach, personal trainer and CVA parent residing in Kirkland, WA. She and her 2 boys try to walk 5 miles a day, but many days she does the “1 mile loop”. She can be contacted through www.coachbrooke.com.

 
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