Humankind’s home is in the wild. It’s where we spent our formative years. Even today, well after the advent of civilization, industrialization, and computerization, almost half of humanity still lives in rural areas. That close relationship to the land is probably why green and blue spaces offer so many health benefits, like lower stress and improved immunity. Going for a hike or picnicking on the beach is much like going home.
Yet we don’t simply exist in nature. We shape it. We’ve always shaped it, from ancient Amazonians building food forests to Neanderthals offing entire herds of mammoths at a time. We start fires, systematically hunt and consume its inhabitants. We make gardens—blends of nature and culture. In effect, we impose our will.
Today’s guest post is offered up by Katy Bowman, biomechanist and author of the bestselling Move Your DNA and her recent book, Movement Matters, which examines our sedentary culture, our personal relationship to movement, and some of the global effects of outsourcing movement. I’m happy to welcome a good friend back to Mark’s Daily Apple to share on this topic. Just in time for Earth Day this weekend…
I recently held a couple of events in New York City. A question came up a few times: How can someone who lives and operates their daily life in a big city get the nature they both need and want when they’re unable or ready to change where they live? The answer can help many people in our culture achieve a deeper relationship with nature no matter where they live.
Sure, they’re not exactly the sexiest body part, but it’s fair to say that life with substandard ear health would be notably less enjoyable. And as it happens, millions of Americans would be able to speak to that.
Research indicates that an estimated 1 in 5 folks have some form of hearing loss. This rate increases to 1 in 3 for age 65 and over, but some estimates put hearing loss great enough to impair communication even higher for the upper decades at around 40%. Perhaps even more alarming, close to 15% of American kids have some form of hearing loss. In teenagers, prevalence has jumped from 15% in 1994 to almost 20% in 2006. Unfortunately, that hearing difficulty will often go undiagnosed.
Hearing loss is, in fact, the third most common health condition in the country, right on the heels of arthritis and heart disease. And it’s getting worse. Between 2000 and 2015, the number of Americans with hearing loss has doubled, mirroring a worldwide increase of 44% over that same period.
But it’s not all about hearing. What about ear health? Our ears perform plenty more functions than just auditory reception. Let’s not forget that the ears are instrumental in influencing our emotions and state of mind, maintaining our sense of balance, and regulating pressure.
Here at Mark’s Daily Apple, I avoid writing off anything without first investigating it. I keep one foot in the “alternative” health world and one in the “conventional” realm, making sure to maintain a skeptical—but openminded—stance on everything. There’s no other way to do it, if you’re honest. At least as far as I can tell.
No, not every alternative therapy works. A lot of it is pure hogwash. But whether we’re talking about off-label uses of conventional drugs and illegal drugs, natural pharmacological agents, or downright outlandish-sounding interventions, some therapies are worth considering. Not trying, necessarily. Considering.
The most basic advice I can give about hiking is to go find a natural space and walk around. That’s it. It’s not sexy or particularly exciting, but it’s good enough.
I do have some additional thoughts, though. If you want to get deeper, if you want to “upgrade” or “hack” your hiking, you’ll find today’s post useful. I’m going to offer some ideas on how to get the most out of your forays into wilderness.
I’m not going to discuss multi-day hikes/backpacking, which, truth be told, I’m not nearly as experienced with. This is strictly about day hikes—the kind everyone has time to do.
I’m also not going to discuss gear. It’s real easy (and fun) to geek out on all the awesome gadgets and gear you can buy for hiking, so I won’t spend much time there.
Let’s get to it:
Winter has come. That means different things to people based on their climate, but I’m of the opinion that winter is relative. You’d be right that the “cold” I face isn’t as objectively dangerous or unpleasant as the cold people in New York, Ottawa, Chicago, Warsaw, or Stockholm face. What’s cold to me in Malibu is short-sleeve weather in my native Maine—but it’s still cold to me today! “Feeling cold” is the defining characteristic.
Today, I’m going to tell you why you should appreciate and enjoy the cold season.