My life is surrounded by inspiring "outdoor- philes". By "outdoor-philes", I mean people whose lifestyles include committed outdoor activities. I am struck by how their health conditions improve after about six months of daily physical outdoor activity and how their lives continue to thrive years later as an outcome of this well ingrained life habit. My brother, for example, having learned to co-exist with his chronic illness, has taken to walking and biking as his preferred means of daily commutes. In recent years he not only seldom gets sick any more but has also transformed his once delicate body into a quiet manifestation of strength and resilience. My dad, approaching 80 years old, not only makes walking and biking in nature his weekly priority, but also enjoys frequent back-country hiking trips. Adopting an active life style has sustained his vitality into advanced age. My husband is yet another remarkable case of improved health as a result of daily outdoor jogging. His morning jogging ritual has become more consistent rain or shine this past year. Concurrently this is the first winter he has suffered far fewer bouts of colds, and bounced back a lot faster even when he did. Then there is my most dependable office assistant LB, who is devoted to her dog and has always kept the twice a day dog walking routine even on snow stormy days when school is out. For all these winters we have been working together she hardly ever gets sick.
Our immune resilience is especially tested in winter season. If you find yourself suffering from frequent colds or if your cold symptoms linger longer this past winter, please take it as a wake up call.
VS, a patient of mine, is usually vivacious and active. But she went through episodes of lingering sore throat and phlegmy coughs from bouts of colds and flu passing around her family members. Curiously, through our chat during an acupuncture treatment, it dawned on her that this was the first winter she stopped her routine of walking her dog daily. On hearing my theory of outdoor activities and immune resilience, KL, another patient of mine, offered this observation: “Interesting you should say this, it’s true I generally keep myself indoors in winter, and while I was struggling with cold followed by flu and extended period of lingering symptoms, my husband, who is always outdoors chopping wood, working in the yard, or walking the dogs, didn’t get sick at all.”
These and numerous other similar cases from my acupuncture practice share a core message: 1. Go outdoors for moderate and regular exercises such as jogging and walking when the weather is still temperate and continue into and throughout the cold season, wearing layered athletic clothes and gloves and hat. You will have subjected your body to multiple small doses of challenges and benefits from the natural elements that will build resilience to help you stay healthy through the winter. 2. Outdoor exercise refreshes the mind. The trees, creeks, birds, and sunshine in nature and its constant changing colors, sounds, and smells wash away the chattering of your mind. The ensuing quietness inside and outside is the best birthing place for creative and clear ideas. It could improve your focus. According to a study published in Psychological Science, interacting with nature gives your brain a break from everyday over stimulation, which can have a restorative effect on your attention levels and give your immune system a neuro-biological boost. 3. Go outdoors to improve your mood. Natural settings and sceneries help return a thousand shades and degrees of emotions to much needed peace and neutrality. A study from the University of Michigan indicates that group nature walks are linked to enhanced mental health and positivity, as well as significantly lower levels of depression and feelings of stress. 4. Outdoor workout offers more health benefits. If you’re dreading the thought of spending another workout chained to the treadmill, move your run or power walk outdoors for a quick burst of happiness. A study from Glasgow University showed that people who walked, biked, or ran in nature had a lower risk of poor mental health than people who exercised indoors.
We humans have an innate connection and attraction to nature, often referred to as “biophilia”. And it is in nature that we find ultimate solace and healing. In return, our outdoor recreation also provides environmental benefits, including increased environmental awareness. Concern that results from outdoor recreation can lead to increased involvement in environmental issues. So if you feel inspired yet need support for your immune system with acupuncture and natural herbs to enable you to reclaim and enjoy outdoor activities, you should come to ACNJ for a consultation and immune boosting acupuncture treatments.
As a veteran acupuncturist, I see it as part of my integral work to use the tools and expertise to not only treat people when their immune systems are weak but also to support them to regain their trust in the healing power within to keep their health strong. Indeed, here at the Acupuncture Center of New Jersey in Morristown, we emphasize exercise and outdoor living as an essential way to stay healthy throughout the seasons. Post by Helen Chen, M.T.O.M., L.Ac.