“All natural manifestations share this quality of periodicity -- cycle, wave, pulsation, vibration. There is rhythm in the incredibly high-pitched singing at the atom’s heart, the shimmer of sound, the ten-cycles-a-second alpha wave in the brain of ant and man (echo of a faint pulse in the sun), the beat of the heart and the sea, the wax and wane of tides, the predator-prey cycles of forest, field, stream and sea, the turn of the earth, the return of the rains, the elliptical swing of planets and stars, the rhythmic travels of galaxies, and, beyond conceivable time and space, the expansion and contraction of the universe itself. Only humanity under the conditions of Civilization has dared to try to step outside the pulsing flow of nature. Only one species has marched across the earth in contrary rhythms, superimposing rigid rectangles over the curves of life, pressing forward deaf and blind to nature’s clear and urgent pleas. Only the human individual has been thrown out of phase with the rhythms of life, so that he can serve as a sort of component for collective man, while the self is left, betrayed and nearly forgotten, in a state of constant discontent and dis-ease, longing for something never fully experienced, lacking words to ask for a nameless grace.
But no organism can entirely escape the rhythms of existence. The familiar episodes of earthy intensity -- laughter, physical exertion, crying, orgasm -- call forth pulsations from sanctuaries deeper than thought, reminding us of the throb of existence.
And there is physical nature itself -- mountain, jungle, desert, swamp, wood and water. How we need it to recall us to wholeness.”
-- George Leonard, The Transformation (Dell Publishing Co., 1972)
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Everyone knows that exercise is good for us, which unfortunately isn’t enough to motivate millions of sedentary Americans to get in shape and exercise regularly.
Those of us who are reasonably fit and have been exercising for years not only don’t usually find it to be a burden, but tend to feel great when we stay in shape.
There are obviously dozens of different kinds of exercise, from participation in a variety of sports to many different exercise regimens, martial arts, dance, etc.
For a long time we’ve been hearing about the particular benefits of aerobic exercise, sustained “cardio” exercise that keeps breathing and heart rates elevated.
Among the most popular forms are running, jogging, cycling, swimming, vigorous walking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter, and of course… hiking.
When we hike for up to several hours or more, as we do on our trips throughout the year, we get a huge dose of aerobic exercise that adds up to a superb workout.
That workout is naturally a lot more intense on our most challenging hikes, and somewhat gentler on our easy hikes. All of them include rest breaks, of course.
Assuming you’re like most people, and aren’t able to hike more than once a week, it’s important to engage in other forms of aerobic exercise to stay in shape.
What about the benefits? There’s a mountain of evidence regarding the ways exercise benefits the body – and how failing to exercise is likely to depress the immune system, possibly lead to deteriorating health, premature ageing, etc.
Among the benefits reported by research are stress reduction, improved memory, improved self-esteem, the release of feel-good endorphins, and much more.
Last year the BBC News website (5/15/15) reported on a study in Norway which concluded that by exercising vigorously a person adds FIVE years to their life.
Based on that, failing to exercise seems almost self-destructive and irresponsible, doesn’t it? Not unlike making other unhealthy choices that could shorten our life.
If we want to take good care of ourselves and live long lives, we need to exercise, period. And if we love nature, what better way on weekends than by hiking?
-- Charlie Cook