COLUMN: Get off your bum and go outside

Coming in as a transfer student, I saw Central Michigan University with fresh eyes: the landscape around Brooks Hall, the interesting, yet eerie black sculpture near the University Art Gallery, the mind-blowing Charles V. Park Library with its moving bookshelves, the greenhouse, ponds and people who care about activism and language and art.

Having been here now for my third semester, I notice I sometimes slip into the naive student mindset of taking it all for granted.

This semester, I have found myself inside more often than normal. If I’m not sitting in class, I'm sitting at a computer typing up homework.

A new Danish study showed kids who walked or biked to school, rather than sit on the bus or crammed into a car, had much better concentration with positive effects lasting around four hours after the commute.

Many studies show one of the big indicators of life longevity depends on time spent walking or exercising. They often make linkages between exercise and health and mortality rates.

These sound like "duh" statements, but, in today's culture, it needs to be said.

I love that some art students wore gas masks last week and stood with signs that told of the dangers of toxic indoor air and said we aren’t getting enough of the outside goodness. And we wonder why youth are so stressed.

What do we need to be doing?

Step 1: Get off our bums.

Step 2: Go outside. Don’t whine about the cold. Embrace it, especially if you want to call yourself a true Michigander.

Step 3: Get more natural. We can do this by not walking on the sidewalks or by just touching the trees on campus but watching the squirrels and visiting the greenhouse on campus, which is like a lesser-known paradise.

It might not be practical to tell my fellow college students to go out in the cold and snow more, as they might have no incentive, but perhaps a few suggestions for cold weather activities might make things easier.

How about walking the trails of the gorgeous parks in town, quit paying parking and walking instead, chasing the squirrels, playing kick the snow chunks or even borrowing someone’s kid and having them chase you around? (You could also be smart about this one and get the parent to pay you for it.)

So, the next time you look at those people jogging in crazy cold weather, join them and reap the benefits.


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