While you need to stay away from gyms and fitness facilities, you can still get your exercise outdoors—walking or trail running, road cycling or mountain biking, kayaking and canoeing, rowing and paddling, to name just a few options.
Which is why Discover Buzzards Bay is celebrating the hundreds of public reserves and outdoor spaces that are open for enjoyment. During the month of April, while we continue to practice social distancing measures, we plan to highlight one preserve each day, focusing attention on a few popular spots but emphasizing some of the lesser known gems in our region. We’re calling it 30 Days around the Bay.
Natural benefits of the outdoors
There is good reason for going outside to get exercise and relaxation, even when you don’t need to observe social distancing and public officials haven’t closed the gym. The short version is that Mother Nature is good for you.
Science can offer more details on why the outdoors are the ultimate fitness facility, particularly if you are considering emotional as well as physical health. A January article in the magazine Yale Environment 360, which is published by the university’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, summarized recent health studies, including one from the journal Nature that found two hours of outdoor activity each week substantially increased an individual’s sense of physical and mental well-being.
From the Yale Environment 360 article:
“These studies have shown that time in nature — as long as people feel safe — is an antidote for stress: It can lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, reduce nervous system arousal, enhance immune system function, increase self-esteem, reduce anxiety, and improve mood…. The growing body of research — combined with an intuitive understanding that nature is vital and increased concerns about the exploding use of smart phones and other forms of technology — has led to a tipping point at which health experts, researchers, and government officials are now proposing widespread changes aimed at bringing nature into people’s everyday lives.”
Many of the benefits of going outside apply no matter the weather. However, when it is sunny, you will reap even more rewards. Sunshine stimulates the human body to generate Vitamin D, which helps to boost the immune system. That’s an important benefit at any time, but particularly now.
Avoiding crowds outdoors
And people are acting on the science. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker explicitly mentioned going outside for fresh air and exercise as one of the very few reasons that Bay State residents should be venturing beyond the home, unless you hold an “essential services” job, such as health care professional or grocery store clerk. The response is apparent on the Buzzards Bay Coalition’s Reserves, on local streets and parks, with many more people out jogging, walking the dog or strolling on their own.
Thankfully, there’s no need to rely on just a few well-known places as we all get outside while still avoiding crowds and observing social distancing guidelines. Buzzards Bay is home to literally hundreds of preserves and parks that are open to the public. You can find plenty of options for going outside and getting exercise on DiscoverBuzzardsBay.org.
When you go out, please remember to follow the recommendations from public health authorities to keep yourself and others safe—maintain at least six feet of separation between yourself and others, keep your dog leashed and under control at all times, don’t go out if you don’t feel well. The CDC’s guidelines cover all the basics.
Follow your passion
The best thing is that you need not feel limited to one type of activity. Yes, there are many wonderful places to walk around the Bay and watch new life spring up as the weather warms and daylight lengthens. In fact, there are 20 great places to find vernal pools, lots of spots for excellent beachcombing and trails perfect for an epic trek. But there are plenty of other choices.
If running is more your thing, you can find myriad options for trail running that will get you out into nature and away from your usual circuit. Many of these locations are excellent for off-road biking and cycling enthusiasts. Our region has a wide variety of options for bicycling so you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy.
And of course, the Bay offers plenty of places for on-the-water recreation, such as kayaking, canoeing, rowing and paddling. If this is what you love to do, you might want to find a new place to explore; Discover Buzzards Bay has more than 100 places for paddling and probably more than one or two that are near you.