I keep a pretty full schedule. Between work at the office and covering local government meetings and events, I am on the go most of the week.
So when someone asked me recently what I do for fun, I quipped, “I sit on my couch.”
I won’t lie; there are days when all I want to do when I get home is kick my shoes off and plop down on the couch to unwind. And sure, I like being at home. It’s “my space.”
But it’s not my happy place.
When the weather and my schedule allow, I like to be outside. It could be taking my dog on a nice, long walk around the neighborhood, meeting up with friends to try out one of our area trails or finding time to get my kayak out of the garage and on the water.
I just feel better after I’ve spent some time outdoors.
Science backs up my experience. Researchers find multiple benefits to being outside among nature. Outdoor activities have been found to improve concentration, promote healing, increase mood and lead to a longer, healthier life.
And now that it’s spring, we have plenty of opportunities to get outside and soak up some Vitamin Green.
This week is Healthier Tennessee Week, with activities encouraging everyone to get active, eat better and quit using tobacco. Crossville and Cumberland County are among the Healthier Tennessee Communities, and area leaders involved in that effort have been working to encourage everyone to make small changes for better health. This could be as simple as parking a little farther away from the store, trading in that second (sixth?) carbonated beverage for some fruit-infused water, or finally — finally — quitting smoking.
Cumberland Medical Center launched a weekly hiking series earlier this month to encourage folks to get outside and get a few more steps in. These 1-mile hikes start at 10:30 a.m. at wonderful trails like the Woodlawn Loop trail in Crossville this Thursday and June 6, or the Obed River Trail off Hwy. 70 N. May 2. You can find a full list of hiking sites and dates at www.cmchealthcare.org.
Cumberland County is blessed with many resources to help us get outside and get active, including our state park system. We’ve home to one of the best parks in the state, Cumberland Mountain State Park. The park began as a place for nearby Homesteaders to have recreation opportunities, and its architecture mirrors that of the adjoining historic district, including the iconic dam and bridge at Byrd Lake. It offers hiking, fishing, boating, camping and biking opportunities and a renown golf course. There are playgrounds for the youngsters, and the rangers and volunteers always have fun activities planned.
This Thursday, they invite everyone to come out and learn about the resources available for healthy living. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., representatives from area agencies will share information about healthy food and getting active at the park’s first Spring Wellness Fair. Ranger Mark Houston will be checking health vitals at no charge. Kelli Robertson with UT Extension will talk about healthy food options. CMC’s Kelly Edwards will have information on living healthier and Billy Loggins will share information on the city’s efforts to promote healthier lifestyles through the Healthier Tennessee program. There will be guided hikes at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and Lauren Scurlock with CatFit Yoga will lead everyone in some gentle yoga stretches at 11 a.m.
Cumberland County is also home to the Cumberland Trail State Park and the Head of the Sequatchie, a unique site that protects the headwaters of the Sequatchie River and showcases some of Cumberland County’s earliest history.
Another Spring Wellness Fair is planned May 4 at the Head of the Sequatchie, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Head of the Sequatchie is usually open only one day each month, so this offers an excellent opportunity to go out and experience this treasure.
They’ll begin their day with a kick-off hike led by a ranger and joined by fitness expert and Olympic athlete Missy Kane. There will be sessions on yoga and tai chi, an outdoor fun zone for kids, healthy food concessions, and booths from local health organizations.
There will also be a session on forest immersion therapy. Developed during the 1980s in Japan, this therapy is a cornerstone of preventative health. In those countries, the prescription for many of the ills of modern living — stress, bad moods, difficulty focusing, trouble sleeping — is getting outside.
We have plenty of outdoor oases available on the Cumberland Plateau. Make time this season to get your daily dose of Vitamin Green and see how much better you feel.