Thursday, December 20, 2012

No Colgate Employee Left Indoors

The other day my 11-week old son was having a crying fit (not his first!).  Cradled in my arms, I walked him in loops around the house to no avail.  Concerned that I may begin to wear a path in the carpeting, I broke free from the loop and headed out the front door.  Immediately there was silence.  He not only calmed down, but his eyes perked up and he began to look around.  I stepped back into the house.  He cried.  I returned outside. He stopped crying.  I repeated this cycle one more time to be sure of the results.  Confirmed.  Assuming that babies live in a black and white world of good and bad (e.g. hunger is bad, milk is good, wet diapers are bad, a dry bottom is good), clearly inside is bad, outside is good. 

Outside is good!  Not just for babies but for all of us (especially now that spring is here and the weather is improving). One recent study concluded that spending time outdoors improves overall mental and physical well-being with "feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression."[1]

Unfortunately, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors.  With our busy, modern day lives, it can be quite the challenge to get outdoors.  We have to make a conscious effort to get outside.  Now is the perfect time to break the automatic reflex to drive for all trips.  Change a few daily habits to improve your personal health and happiness while reducing our ecological and carbon footprints.  Here are a few possible ways for breaking the daily cycle:

·      Walk to meetings.  Are you guilty of driving around campus from meeting to meeting?  Our beautiful campus has to be enjoyed on foot with unobstructed views. 
·      Go for a walk during your lunch hour.  Walk to the Trudy Fitness Center, walk downtown, or just walk for the sake of walking.  Snack on some fruit along the way.
·      Commute to work by bike or foot.  Nearly, 500 Colgate employees live in the Hamilton area presenting many opportunities to bike or walk to work. 

Walking or biking to meetings, lunch, or work may not be possible all of the time, but it can certainly work some of the time.  Start small; eliminate one or two car trips a week.  In the process you will avoid parking stress, save a little money in fuel, clear your head, breathe fresh air and reduce air emissions.  So, what are you waiting for?  Grab a colleague and get outside.

See you between buildings!

[1] J. Thompson Coon, K. Boddy, K. Stein, R. Whear, J. Barton, M. H. Depledge. “Does Participating in Physical Activity in Outdoor Natural Environments Have a Greater Effect on Physical and Mental Wellbeing than Physical Activity Indoors? A Systematic Review.”  Environ. Sci. Technol., February 3, 2011; DOI: 10.1021/es102947t.

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