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Benefits of nature

BY DAN GEDDINGS
Outdoor contributor
Posted 6/27/20

We probably take it for granted that we live in an area that offers so many things to do in the great outdoors. Hunting and fishing, camping, hiking, boating and other outdoor pursuits are just a way of life here. We have the Wateree River, Santee …

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Benefits of nature

Posted

We probably take it for granted that we live in an area that offers so many things to do in the great outdoors. Hunting and fishing, camping, hiking, boating and other outdoor pursuits are just a way of life here. We have the Wateree River, Santee River and Upper Lake Marion as western boundaries to the county. The High Hills stretch across the northern boundary. The countryside is a mix of farms and timberland. Larger towns and cities are within easy driving distance if you need an occasional, more civilized diversion.

I grew up in a small town. We hunted and fished, camped out in the woods, rode horses and explored the dirt roads out in the countryside on our bikes. We enjoyed an innocence that may be all but gone now. I consider myself lucky to have grown up in this natural Eden.

It has always amused me that some people think that outdoor activities are a sport. They are not. They are a way of life. A lifestyle that we choose. Baseball is a sport, and football and basketball. They foster competition and require some athletic ability. I guess shooting could be considered a sport, and tournament fishing, and some others that involve competition. The outdoor lifestyle really requires no competition.

I like to think that I live close to the land. I admire the wildflowers on the roadsides and the songbirds that come to my backyard. My wife, Ginger, and I sit out on the front porch and admire the sunset when we can. You have to have the time - or more correctly, make the time. I yearn to be outside breathing the fresh air and feeling the sun. I treasure the view of the nighttime sky at our hunting lease. There are no cellphone towers visible, no street lights intruding into the darkness, only the moon and untold numbers of stars overhead in an inky black sky.

I lived in Colorado while in the Army years ago. The nearby mountains were beautiful to look at, but the "front range" was arid. It was a high, dry desert. Dirt and rocks, tumble weed and sparse grasses. There was no lush green landscape. No lakes and rivers nearby. I missed my home turf.

My home turf is the Upper Coastal Plain of Carolina. It is like no other place on Earth. Carolina Bays dot the landscape. Pine forest covers the land with ribbons of hardwoods along the drainages. Farms, ponds and lakes have been carved out of the flatwoods and bottomlands. The people here are hardy and resilient. We have an attachment to this land and our outdoor lifestyle, even if we don't know it or understand it.

A recent study has shown that spending time in the outdoors may be good for our health and well-being. Just two hours a week appears to be a "crucial threshold" for mental and physical health. Researchers noted that those who spent time in natural settings such as parks, woodlands, beaches and preserves were "significantly more likely" to report good health and psychological well-being.

Health benefits appeared whether people immersed themselves in nature for a long visit or several short ones. The benefit did not differentiate between men, women, old, young or ethnicity. There are many reasons why spending time in nature may be good for our health, including reducing stress, enjoying quality time with friends and family and getting a new perspective on life circumstances.

The outdoors may not be the most important thing in your life. Shopping malls and amusement parks have their place. But we could survive and live without those things. We could not live without the natural world and the things that the outdoors provide.

There are more people here than when I grew up, and more will come. We will put a burden on the land. I hope we can keep some of the innocence and preserve and protect some of the natural world so that the benefits of an outdoor lifestyle will live on.

Email Dan Geddings at cdgeddings@gmail.com.