Take a few moments to disconnect and take a walk

Mar 26 2020

Take a few moments to disconnect and take a walk

“A walk is only a step away from a story, and every path tells.”
Robert MacFarlane

As Keystone began a new reality of remote learning, we found ourselves with a variety of questions from the most ethereal (how will this experience change us as a society?) to the most mundane (why won’t my connection work?). It also raises the uncomfortable question of how to manage being cooped up inside all day and whether family members will get on each others’ nerves from all this forced togetherness.

Perhaps a walk may help, even if just a little bit. A December 2016 blog post on netdoctor.com called “8 reasons you’re right to insist on a family walk” provides a variety of rationales for prying our children off the couch and going outside for a stroll. Among the benefits:

  • It may help your child’s vision.
  • It’s an easy activity that improves your child’s wellbeing.
  • Walking engages our ‘sitting’ muscles.
  • It’ll help your child’s physical development AND emotional wellbeing.
  • Exercising in cold weather activates brown fat. (Ok, maybe not the most compelling reason right now in San Antonio.)
  • Getting outside combats Seasonal Affective Disorder.
  • Going slow helps you reconnect.
  • A walk helps you focus your mind.

As compelling as these reasons may be at any time, they may be all the more beneficial during this time of social distancing and isolation. We know intuitively that sitting inside all day looking at an electronic screen is not good for us. There’s a great deal of research to support this, but we can also listen to common sense. Fresh air, moving muscles, and changing focus stimulate us physically and mentally.

A dear friend in New Mexico used to have a regular saying when we would hike in the Sandia mountains outside Albuquerque. Periodically during a weekend hike, he would exclaim, “That wasn’t here last week.” It could be a flower on a cholla cactus or an unusual tree we hadn’t noticed; whatever it was, it heightened our awareness. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, ““No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man;” one could make a similar argument for walking the same path daily. My wife and I have been strolling around the park near us in the evenings, and it seems like there are new bluebonnets and Indian paint brushes springing up every night.

Perhaps a fun game to play with your children as you walk is a variant of the old “I Spy” game where you find something new or different. Maybe it is during a walk that you process this whole distance learning and online working phenomenon we’re experiencing. You could be like Coach Unruh and read a book while you’re reading, though be careful crossing the street! Whatever it is, taking a walk at least once a day will get you and your children out of the house, stimulate your child’s muscles and their thinking, and enable them to come back to whatever they were doing with a fresh perspective. Possibly, families walking together is a silver lining for the cloud we’re in now, and a habit that will continue after the threat from the coronavirus fades away.

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