I learned a lesson at a young age that has carried throughout my life. That lesson was that being outdoors in fresh air and sunshine accompanied by physical activity is healthy living and can benefit a person over both the short and long run. As a child I always seemed to be coming down with some sickness or ailment but when I turned 12 years old things changed. Up until 12 years of age I spent far too much time indoors. I would play outdoors with neighborhood friends but when we got tired we would sit in the shade of a tree or on someone's porch and idle away the time. That all changed when I bought a rather large paper route from our local newspaper.
As a newspaper boy with around 125 customers I was thrust into another world. I would get up on Sunday before dawn and walk about 1/4 mile to get my newspapers at the drop point. I would then have to fold them and stuff them into carrying pouches with a shoulder straps where I could then carry them to my customers. Some days when the newspapers were thick I would have to make two or more trips to get my papers before I even started to deliver them. Week days I would have to go straight from school to my paper route.
I soon found out that being a paperboy was very hard work and required commitment and stamina. It was also 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year in all kinds of weather. I was outside far more than usual and in all types of weather. It didn’t matter if I was sweating, cold, drenched in rain, blown by wind or walking through snow; I was delivering newspapers in all kinds of weather. After about two years of delivering newspapers, collecting subscription fees, and riding my bicycle across town to turn in my collections I realized that I was not as sick as I was before I had my paper route. I was more muscular and healthy.
Having had a newspaper route for 5 years kept me fit and more healthy. It was an unforeseen benefit from being outside in all kinds of weather plus the exercise. This discovery has remained with me throughout my life. Even when I was office bound I made time to be outside as much as I could and supplemented being outside with physical exercise.
Now in my senior years I still reap the benefits from being outdoors as much as possible and doing a lot of physical work. Homesteading in the mountains requires a lot of shoveling snow in the winter, cutting, splitting, stacking and hauling firewood (9-12 cords per year) and all the ancillary requirements to live as we do. I’m now in my mid-seventies and other than a few sore muscles on occasion I continue to amaze our doctor each year when I go in for a wellness checkup.
As I witness my friends and family who for the most part have a more sedentary lifestyle it is even more clear that outdoor activity plus exercise is vital to good health. With the exception of rare injuries I can’t recall the last time I was sick. I have had asthma my entire life and even that is better when I spend more time outdoors. In my senior years I have observed that my friends who for the most part have had more relaxed lifestyles have increased illnesses and diseases and seem to be taking numerous medications to correct these problems. Twenty years ago when we moved to our remote location I once again discovered that being outdoors routinely coupled with physical activity enhanced my general health.
It has been my personal observation over the years that fresh air, good water, active lifestyle and exercise are the components that make for a more healthy life even as we get older. Reflecting back I am so grateful that I had that paper route when I was younger as it prepared me for many things in life but mostly it equipped me for a healthy lifestyle that has enabled me to better cope now that I am in my senior years.
As a senior that doesn’t mean that I can work outside like a 50 year old. I have my aches and pains plus I work slower and with better preparation. Years of work has taken its toll on my body but I am still able to work and love to spend as much of my time outdoors as I can. My body is wearing down but neither my body or spirit is wearing out because I have prepared it well up to this point of my life. Clearly I will not be able to endure this lifestyle forever; modifications will have to be made and I may have to consider a simpler and more age friendly lifestyle in the future. I dread that day but for now I’m enjoying the wonderful outdoors, fresh air and work involved in maintaining our lifestyle.
When is it too late to engage in a more healthy lifestyle? Anytime is good but I personally believe the earlier we begin the easier it is to establish those good habits that will carry through to the senior years. Mountain living is a very demanding environment and if we had serious health issues it might be hard or impossible to live as we do. We do not know what tomorrow will bring but today is a good day to go outside and breathe the fresh air, have a drink of pure water and enjoy life.
For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their homesteading experiences go to: www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com Bruce and Carol live in the Sangre de Christo mountains at 9,800 feet elevation in their small cabin with their four German Shepherd Dogs. You can read all of Bruce's blog posts here.
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