Get out and Get Healthy

By Dr. Autumn Orser, MD. (Pediatrics Specialist with Peak Vista Community Health Centers and a member of the TOSC Board of Directors)


We are now a year into the global pandemic, which has affected our lives in unimaginable ways. The world has seen 128 million cases and an unfathomable 2.8 million deaths. In Colorado, we’ve seen nearly half a million cases and said goodbye to over 6,000 people who have died due to COVID-19. Worries about whether we’ll find toilet paper, hand sanitizer, or fresh vegetables at the grocery store have waned. However, concerns about the economy, personal finances, quality of online vs in-person education, and physical health and emotional distress continue to skyrocket.


The uncertainty of school being in-person or on-line one week to the next, childcare challenges, and the balance of multiple people working or learning from home are exhausting our depleted reserves. These demands are compounded by the loss of social connections, interactions, and celebratory milestones. Over the past year, clinical diagnoses of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse have nearly doubled. Over 85% of parents surveyed report changes to their children’s emotions and behaviors during the quarantine. Child physical activity has decreased from 63% to 30% and time outside has decreased from 58% to 27%. The pandemic is certainly taking a toll.


But all is not grim! We can continue to combat the secondary effects of COVID-19 by spending time on our trails and in our open spaces. Now, more than ever, we need fresh air, sunlight, and cool mountain breezes. The benefits of spending time outside include a more diverse work out—being able to go up and down hill, natural resistance due to Spring winds, and the mental reward of the vista. Motivation to complete your work out is also improved, since you can’t just step off the trail and be done with your workout like you can a treadmill. You have to keep going until you make it back to the trailhead!


Spending time outside also lowers our cortisol levels, which boosts immunity and improves mood. The Vitamin D from protected sun-exposure could fight against bone disease, cancer, depression, stroke, and heart attacks. And importantly, spending time in the grandeur of the Colorado Rockies helps gives us perspective, relief from the concerns of our day, and connects us to healing hope and optimism.


In Colorado Springs, we have remarkably easy access to trails and open spaces. Make it a priority to get outside for 15-20 minutes every day. When you get out and are strolling in the park, hiking in the mountains, running on the trail, or biking down the path, take time to notice the sights, sounds and smells around you—the trees, flowers, snow, birds, insects, grass, and sunlight. Be sure to carry a mask with you in case you encounter others in an area where maintaining 6 feet of distancing isn’t possible.


With so many trails and parks within an easy walk, bike or drive, let’s get out and get healthy! #GetOutGetHealthy

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