East Bay Natural Movers meet up at a safe social distance in Berkeley, California. Join the next meetup virtually or in-person, this Saturday (4/25) – National ParkRx Day — and get some much-needed natural healing.

The Case for Going Outside

Missing the gym? Hit the Park!

As theories multiply about the origins, contagiousness, and mortality rate of COVID-19, it’s easy to feel powerlessness in the face of so much conflicting information — especially as we are told that we must stay indoors, where the temptation is to feed our apprehension with an endless diet of sensationalist headlines and comfort snacks.

One silver lining is the number of people who seem to be rediscovering the Great Outdoors with their families and those with whom they are already in close contact.

Prior to the outbreak, most of us were aware of the risks of staying indoors and remaining sedentary. A deficit of nature and outdoor movement has been brewing for far longer than the Coronavirus, and is perhaps the more worrisome long-term threat to our national health.

This week (April 18 to April 26) is National ParkRx week – an initiative of Park Rx to “promote the growing movement of prescribing parks and nature to patients to improve human health.”

Park Rx is encouraging people to plan micro-events that increase the relevance of parks for all people, as well as to “celebrate the healing power of nature from the safety of your home, your backyard, or your neighborhood,” using the hashtags #ParkRx #FindYourPark #Active people and #NationalParkWeek.

Most urban areas typically have underutilized parks and green spaces with ample room for all kinds of nutritious movement. Practitioners of “Parkour” and MovNat have turned this “natural movement” into an art form, and we can draw some inspiration from them, but we don’t need to engage in complex acrobatics or crawl on all fours to get the many benefits of outdoor natural movement.

Those who are prevented from their gym routine don’t need to stop exercising altogether. Instead, we can use this time to affect a shift in our physical fitness culture — away from crowded, sterilized spaces toward community movement in the bright, breezy outdoor environment where we are physiologically adapted to thrive.

Lack of sunlight is a major risk factor for diseases of all kinds because it suppresses our immune response, harms out natural sleep patterns, and chokes the synthesis of Vitamin D. Furthermore, the latest research from the Department of Homeland Security is confirming that Coronavirus hates the sun. It turns out that the old adage about sunlight being the best disinfectant is true.

Our bodies fight off all kinds of pathogens daily. It takes either a heavy viral load or else a perfect storm of weakened immunity for a virus like COVID to truly take hold. Staying indoors all the time may not be the safe haven it was touted as, nor is outdoor activity at a safe social distance the danger is was previously thought to be.

If you are interested in empowering yourself and your community, consider drawing attention to National ParkRx Day, and add your signature to the Declaration of Movement Independence.

This Saturday, April 25, for National ParkRx day I will be leading a small, socially-distanced in-person meetup near the Shorebird Nature Center at the Berkeley Marina. It has a free swimming area (high tide only), plenty of grassy space for Yoga, Tai Chi, and other movement flows, plus paths for running and walking, rocks for lifting and throwing, and trees for climbing and pull-ups.

You can also follow our flow virtually at your own park via Zoom.

The San Francisco Bay Area is known for its strong yoga culture, so I’m especially inviting the “yoga refugees” who have been displaced from their crowded studios to explore the related modality of movement a la Methode Naturelle – Georges Hébert’s pioneering physical education program that has spawned the modern outdoor “movement movements” of MovNat and Parkour. Hébert promoted the use of outdoor elements for health and hygiene, and believed that exercise was best performed in groups.

Here’s to hoping that we are on the verge of a revival of a more robust physical culture.

If you are interested in empowering yourself and your community, consider drawing attention to National ParkRx Day, and add your signature to the Declaration of Movement Independence.

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