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In the wake of the current pandemic, the psychological benefits of physical activity may outweigh the physiological ones. It is one of the best ways to combat the effects of social isolation, even when a person exercises alone.
Physical activity’s ability to combat stress and depression, improve self-esteem and body image are well established. Of equal importance is the sense of connectedness a person develops exercising out of doors.
In their book entitled The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision, authors Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi introduce the concept of deep ecology: a systems approach that connects human beings to their surrounding environment.
They state that: “Deep ecology does not separate humans- or anything else- from the natural environment. It sees the world not as a collection of isolated objects but as a network of phenomena that are fundamentally interconnected and interdependent.” (Capra & Luisi, 2018).
As human beings we are designed to not only live in nature but with it. For those who have the ability and opportunity to exercise out-of-doors, doing so is a way of re-establishing a spiritual connection that many of us have lost, having spent most of our time in the built environment.
Physical activity’s ability to combat stress and depression, improve self-esteem and body image are well established
Even a brief sojourn in a nearby park or nature preserve is enough to liven one’s senses and sense of spirituality. It reminds us of the magnitude of time and our very limited presence in the greater scheme of things. There is a universe beyond the world of COVID-19; knowing that gives us hope in the days to come.
The type of exercise doesn’t matter, nor, remarkably enough, does having exercise partners. Go outside and you will inevitably find companionship along the way: birds feeding at sunrise, squirrels peaking their heads out beside a nearby oak tree, dogs barking and cows mooing.
In the animal world, life hasn’t changed that much since the pandemic broke. In the human world it has, but in this larger context, it hasn’t changed the essence of what life is, nor has it changed our position in the greater ecosystem.
John Muir once said: “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” This ‘tug’ may be just what the doctor ordered. We may be socially isolated, but we are still part of the bigger community we call life.
Reference: Capra, F. & Luigi Luisi, P. (2018) The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision. Pp. 12-13. Cambridge University Press