© Jacquelyn Johnston, M. Ed.
Which hemisphere do you live in? Where I live, in Vancouver, Canada, we have just experienced the heaviest snowfalls in decades.
Snow creates the proverbial winter wonderland here in Vancouver, but also traffic snarl-ups, slippery roads thanks to black ice, flight delays that had passengers sleeping on the floor in the International Airport as flight after flight got cancelled.
What does that mean for the weary passenger who just wants to get home for Christmas? It means dehydration and hunger. It means having too many people around you for too long. And it means sharing filtered air for maybe days on end with people who might have cold viruses, ‘flu viruses, coughs, you name it. And even if no one was generously sharing their germs, it means not being exposed to fresh air for very long periods of time. This means not being able to replace the oxygen in your lungs with oxygen that has been enhanced by wide open spaces where there are trees.
This is what happened to thousands of passengers stuck in airports throughout the snow-bound world. They had no choice. The irony is that many who do have the choice deprive themselves of the opportunity of refreshing their lungs with the best oxygen there is, the air in wide-open spaces where there are trees, birds and squirrels. I’m talking about the parks in our cities that lie largely empty in winter, while we play host to germs of all sorts in centrally heated buildings.
What happens to the lungs when they do not have oxygen-rich air and the healthy energy that comes from being in the open air? They lack the ability to renew the blood as they’re supposed to, replacing leftover carbon dioxide with an infusion of blood-enhancing oxygen. On most of my daily walks in the snow of the nearby park I see about ten people, tops. They are not using the park as a short-cut to the office, as they do in summer. They are there by choice, taking a walk, photographing the rabbits and squirrels, bird-watching, feeding the ducks, or building a snowman. They’re in no hurry to leave, as they’re bundled up for the weather in scarves, coats, warm gloves and boots. (Those of you in warmer climes must be chuckling) They will go home with a big boost to their immune system. The very pleasant workout leaves you glowing, with an increase in feel-good hormones and a ton of energy.
I mentioned irony in this situation earlier. Doesn’t it seem ironic that the stranded passengers were trapped in the airport in filtered air for days while people who had the freedom to circulate were not availing themselves of the great opportunity to rejuvenate their lungs? These are choices we make. Why do you think we make them? Every health decision is a choice. Healthy nutrition is a choice. Exercise is a choice. Being a couch potato is a choice. Taking deep breaths of fresh air is a choice. Munching junk food is a choice. Weight loss is a choice. Not paving the way to diabesity is a choice.