A Moving Light is Full and Well
In times of stress, anxiety, worry, life challenges and good old to do lists, why should we move?
During my daily workouts at the local YMCA and taking my dog for a walk at the local park this week, I asked a few individuals, why do you move? Many of the adults I spoke to (ages 30 – 70), shared some of the following reasons for why:
Movement is defined in the Webster Dictionary as, “the act or process of moving, especially, change of place or position or posture” and activity is defined as, “vigorous or energetic action, liveliness… a process actually or potentially involving mental function.”
Physical activity contributes to our ability to achieve fulfillment and wellbeing. Being fulfilled we are satisfied and happy when we complete or achieve something.
So when we are well, we are healthy and happy.
On Wednesday, I attended the Alamance Wellness Summit and our keynote speaker, Mark Fenton, a nationally known speaker in public health, planning, and active transportation spoke with us about a variety of topics related to the free-range kid as well as infrastructure in communities to support physical activity. We discussed the social ecology model to discuss how we can make change happen at the individual level as well as the policy level.
Today, I want to focus on an activity Mark had us complete at the beginning of his keynote. He asked for us to all close our eyes and think back to our first physical activity that we could remember (go ahead and close your eyes and think about it – share in the comments section below).
We had an opportunity to share at our tables. After sharing we discussed the concept of the free-range kid. The free-range kid, is the one who can go outside and play with friends without supervision, who can walk to school, or who can run an errand for their parents alone. The sense that children can be independent, play, learn, fail and make decisions.
Here are a few stories shared from a social media post this week of some friends and colleagues about there first memories of activity and play:
“Playing kickball with all the neighborhood kids and riding our bikes everywhere!”
“Not sure if it’s my earliest, but one of my oldest and fondest childhood memories is playing baseball on the front lawn after dinner in the summer”
“Grew up on Pensacola Beach in the 70’s. Road my bike everywhere and had to be home or inside from 12pm to 2pm, when the fire department sirens went off. So get to a friends or get home bc it was inside time!
Building boom from after Hurricane Camille left trash piles of lumber for me to raid and build rafts and other things.
I learned about “putting things away” and jigsaws and drills.
I built a “sailboat” - haha it was a raft with a sail!
Run wild - run hard - run free!”
“Bike riding from just after breakfast until lunch. Then again after lunch until it was too dark to see or until the parents called me home.”
“I grew up on a dairy farm.....so any where around the farm I would roam at age 6- exploring hay barns was especially fun. And then now I do let my 10 year old bike to the pump track - I pick him up mainly because the sidewalk home is lacking on the side of the road he should be riding on.”
“I grew up in the country and had a pony from age 6-11. Would ride all over the area, in woods, pastures, to friends houses, everywhere! Just had to check in every so often. But usually, my mom would ask oil field workers who drove the country roads regularly if they had seen me and to send me home. One big rule when I was older and out playing and away from house, we had to be close enough to hear the car horn blast (1 long, 2 short). We knew to get home within 10 minutes. Making mom honk twice was ok, but never a 3rd time.”
“There was no calling or texting back then- if you wanted to know where your friends were, you jumped on your bike and road all over town until you found them or their bikes. Back when the street lights came on.”
“Fishing by myself at age 7 on the river near my house. I used to build forts, and make silly homemade teas from blackberries and roots. Funny that my life has come full circle, and I have a love for the two things I grew up doing: riding my bike and hanging out in the woods.
As a youth development worker I am a firm believer that children who have space to explore their interest and also spend creative time in the outdoors will develop skills faster. If you buy kids toys that are tonka versions of the real world they only ever live in a tonka world. But give them, sticks, grass, real pots or pans then teach them age appropriate ways to use these items they can have an easier time living in the real world as adults.
At camp I do this with one model: I do(use your eyes and ears), we do(eyes, ears and hands), then YOU do(include your memory, and practical reasoning)
How do we encourage the free-range kid and free-range adults too.
How do we create environments that support physical activity?
We know that these activities can be structured or unstructured. The purpose is to get people moving.
My biggest fear is when that I flashback to the Disney movie Wall-E, when you see the robot on the spaceship with all of the humans and humans no longer live on Earth. They are all sitting in chairs, with screens right in front of their faces, they do not make eye contact and they do not touch each other. There are opportunities for walking and swimming but no one is participating. Could that be our future reality?
The middle of this week I shared this video regarding my initials thoughts about the concept of the free-range kid.
After hearing others stories and reflecting on my own experiences of activity (unstructured and structured) I thought about what I learned from some of the activities I participated in as a child. Some positive and others negative.
My fondest are playing at my grandfather’s farm and going on adventures with no set plan. As an adult, I would say when I go kayaking or hiking this is typically where I feel free to roam, no real plan, discovery, adventure, exposure to the elements and opportunities to make decisions and be independent
If I am working out at the gym it is much more structured, I enjoy it for the comradery and social aspect as well as the encouragement I receive from friends and peers to achieve workout goals (like this Tuesday, I benched 130 pounds – that was because I had encouragement from others saying you got this!).
As a parent I try to remind myself to let my son Caelan have the opportunity to explore, to not hover over him and to let him take risk. Here is a picture from when we were out kayaking together and I Iet him go wherever he wanted, I followed him and let him lead.
Having the opportunity as a child to roam wild and play taught me independence, decision making and the ability to learn from failure, I truly appreciate that my mother encouraged me to be adventurous.
I learned quite a bit from structured activities as a child as well, good and bad. First, I’ll share the bad. I was a dancer – I loved to dance, I was in ballet, tap and jazz for about five years from the age of 6 to 11. At the age of 8 in third grade was the first time I remember not enjoying dance because the teacher would constantly say things about my weight. She would say things like, “Oh, it looks like Cara has lost some weight, really starting to look like a ballerina.” I never realized the impact those words had on me as a young girl and it made me question my participation.
I turned away from dancing (even though I loved it) and became involved in sports. I played basketball and competed in karate. Basketball taught me the importance of a team as well as how to recover from failure if we lost a game.
Karate was the most influential, I learned self-discipline, integrity, and it gave me the self-confidence to take risks if that was trying a new break, sparring technique or kata (shadow fighting). Even to this day my stepfather, Wayne who was an international kickboxer in the 70s and my sensei when I was in high school still finds ways to challenge my abilities by bringing me in every once and while to do a demo like the one you see here from this past December.
Physical activity of any kind be it walking, gym visits, hiking, running, kayaking, and playing are ways for us to engage our bodies and minds to be healthy people who create healthy communities.
A few questions to consider:
1. How are our children and how are we engaging in free-range activity?
2. How are we making change as an individual?
3. How are we making policy change for healthier communities?
Please share ideas and feedback in the comments section below.
Get out, move, and don’t worry about it having to be structured.
A moving light is full and well.