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Tennessee outdoors for fitness and fun

Your Intrepid Pharmacist (front right) enjoys some fun outdoor exercise on the Ocoee River
Your Intrepid Pharmacist (front right) enjoys some fun outdoor exercise on the Ocoee River
Quest Expeditions

The warm weather has arrived! Finally! And now it’s time to put down those video games and television remotes and head outside! And nowhere is this more needed than in Tennessee. Well, there are a couple other states needing it more than this one, but only a couple! Tennessee currently ranks among the top ten most obese states in the nation. Worse still, the statistics on overweight children continue to show an increase, including the fourth highest rate of obesity among youths ages 10 to 17.

Yes, the computer is fun. But even your Intrepid Pharmacist put the game controller down and got together with friends outside on a frequent basis to climb trees, swim (MARCO!), play tag, kickball, and other (POLO!) such childhood games, including an odd one called “Spud.” Somewhere, the hundreds of cable channels and video gaming options took over the American life and the place of going outside at all. This trend needs to change.

Your Intrepid Pharmacist is an admitted gym rat, but that does not mean that everyone needs to run out and join a gym. Besides enough people do that every January who your Intrepid Pharmacist never sees make it to March, so gym membership is not always a solution, though neither is giving up after less than three months because you didn’t get the ideal body in 30 days like the commercials promise. But enough of the bad news…let’s see what we can do to change that.

As always, diet is equally important to exercise when it comes to living healthy, or at least living healthier. For this column, though, we are going to focus on the exercise part. And the benefit of living in Tennessee—especially those of you in the eastern part—is the long list of outdoor activities available.

Some ground rules:

1. You have to be consistent! Going outside once a month is not going to counteract all the non-active parts of your daily life. It’s the warm time of year: get out and enjoy it everyday!!

2. It’s not what you do, but that you do it (consistently). As your Intrepid Pharmacist noted above, you do not have to join a gym to engage in healthy activities. Just walking around the block every evening can be beneficial.

3. Others keep you motivated. Even your Intrepid Pharmacist performs better when there is someone else present to push, challenge, or encourage him. The same is true outside the gym: other people keep you involved and they make it more fun. For instance, playing your ex at dodge ball can be a deeply satisfying experience.

4. Try out other activities/mix it up. While doing the same old thing is comforting, it can become boring. Trying out new things is exciting and it helps keep up your involvement. Even your Intrepid Pharmacist mixes it up so the gym is not the same thing every time, and he does other things besides the gym when it’s warm out. His large dog/small pony also ensures he goes for a walk at least once every day.

5. Find out what activities are around you. This is where a good search engine comes in handy. Most local parks have hiking/nature trails. Chattanooga has its famed Riverwalk that runs from downtown to the Chickamunga Dam (you can walk or bike ride it) without ever leaving the city and enjoy great scenery all along the way. Whitewater rafting, such as on the Ocoee River is also a great outdoor day, and a favorite of your Intrepid Pharmacist. Other rafting rivers include the Big Pigeon and Hiawassee. Bike and canoe rentals are often available, too. Many cities and parks have public pools for swimming (and after taking microbiology and infectious disease classes in school, your Intrepid Pharmacist will take chlorine water any day).

6. Ease into anything new. The biggest error your Intrepid Pharmacist sees in the gym is a person who comes in and throws himself into an exercise regimen without taking time to adapt his body to the changes. Consequently, he winds up insanely sore and not really wanting to go back to it. The same rule applies outside the gym. Ease into whatever outdoor activities you do. Start out by walking around the block and go up from there. Raft just the middle section of the Ocoee River and then consider doing the whole thing. Give your body a chance to adapt and you will be surprised at how well it will respond.

7. Be patient. Those of you headed outside to help shed some pounds or improve overall health must always remember, “unhealthy” did not happen overnight and neither will “healthy.” Your body takes about three months to adapt to change and begin to respond (another reason why consistency is important). Thus, if you quit two months into it, you haven’t given yourself a chance benefit from what you are doing. Overweight/obesity, like the current economic mess, is not something that happened overnight and reversing the trend will take time, too.

8. Have fun! Enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise, but above all do something you will enjoy and with people you will enjoy doing it with. Nothing makes for a better spring/summer! And you will feel better and be healthier if you get out there, enjoy yourself, and stay with it.

That said, your Intrepid Pharmacist feels like a game of tag. Time to round up some friends, just to see if the adults can still do it. Otherwise, it’s just him and the dog…and the dog always wins that game.


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