Get Outside

Summer is short in Canada and this year it’s been a long time coming. Now that it has finally arrived, you can feel the energy of people gearing up to savour its sweetness. We know we’ve got to get it before its gone!

Ontario summers, both urban and rural, favour the great outdoors: hiking, biking, gardening, camping, boating, beaches, BBQs, patios, festivals, and more! After being cooped up inside for months, we look forward to this brief explosion of outdoor activities.

I have recently been researching how the automation and commercialization of physical labour has impacted our physicality. And the news is not good. I consider myself a very active, physically capable person, but its’ remarkable how much physical labour I now avoid or hire out.

I hire people to walk my dog, wash my windows outside and in, vacuum my floors, haul patio stones, dig up my yard, plant my garden, build a fence. I’m a busy woman and I am lucky I am able to hire people to help me.

I recognize of course, that I have narrowed my skill set by hiring out much of the work my folks did as a matter of course and I did when I was younger –  when the end-times come I’m not sure the demand for Pilates teachers will be very great and I may wish I knew how to build a shelter. I’m not sure I have acknowledged however how much hiring out this work has narrowed my physical ability.

Grip strength, fine motor skills, upper body strength, rotational power, the ability to squat, lift push, pull haul and carry; these are skills honed through regular physical labour.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not want to return to a time of having to lug water from a well or wash our clothes on a washboard. I’m glad I have a car to drive my kids to their baseball games and circus classes. And though it remains popular in some circles, I have no interest in milking cows, shearing sheep or collecting eggs. But it’s a slippery slope. Most of us are relieved to have abandoned all subsistence activities but now we have doors and cupboards that open and close for us so we never need to turn a knob or push and pull. We have toilets that are higher so we never need to squat.

Two summers ago, at the lake, my older brother did not go waterskiing for the first time in probably 40 years. His back hurt. He didn’t go last summer either. His back didn’t hurt anymore but he didn’t want to take a chance. I have my doubts he will go this year. How many times do we hear people say, “I don’t do (insert activity here) anymore because (insert aches, pains, injury here).”

Our enjoyment of life, not to mention our health and well being is enhanced by physical strength and capability. It’s what allows us to continue to do the things we love and gives us the confidence to try new things. It helps us maintain our independence and our mental health.

So get outside this summer. Enjoy the fresh air and the sunshine. Work in your garden, wash your windows, rake your yard, walk on the beach, hike in the forest.

Do what you can. Every day.

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