The pandemic shifted Vermonters’ relationship with the outdoors. Everywhere these days, people are socializing through walking, running, paddling, and biking, finding new ways to enjoy movement in nature. From July 12 through August 2, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont encouraged Vermonters to join the fun by posting photos of themselves taking full advantage of summer by exercising outdoors.
“Many people can find going to a restaurant or sitting at a bar with friends overwhelming, and so it is encouraging to see how socializing habits have changed to healthier, movement-oriented pursuits over the past 18 months,” says Megan Peek, Director of Community Relations and Health Promotion at Blue Cross. “To be out in nature, either alone or with a friend, has an incredibly grounding effect on a person’s mind and their outlook on life. The mental and physical effects of outdoor activities have tangible health benefits. Sometimes, all we need is a little encouragement to get off the couch and go for a walk, which is where the idea for this event was born.”
Over the past three weeks, Blue Cross asked Vermonters to share photos of themselves with their family and friends getting outside and getting fit by hiking, biking, paddling, swimming — whatever outdoor activities inspired them. Submitting photos, rather than gathering for Hike, Bike, Paddle events as they happened in previous years, is a great way to share your accomplishments while being mindful of pandemic safety. Today Blue Cross randomly chose two photo submissions to win a new adult kayak, paddle, and personal flotation device to keep up that exercise momentum.
Mental Health outcomes of exercise are vast. Beyond improved cognitive function, “exercise improves self-esteem, emotional resilience, a sense of well-being, and quality of life,” says Dr. Kate McIntosh, Senior Medical Director and Director of Quality and Utilization Management at Blue Cross.
Changing habits happen one step at a time. A few ways to integrate exercise into your pandemic life:
• Walk instead of drive whenever possible.
• Lay out your exercise clothes the night before and line up your sneakers by the door—having that visual reminder of the goal you set for yourself is sometimes all it takes to get out the door.
• When you are heading up the stairs, go back to the bottom and take them again.
• Get out and explore! Vermont has incredible lakes and ponds that are waiting for your paddle.
• Get into a routine of waking up 45 minutes earlier each day and get right out for a walk or run—before you drink your coffee, before you get pulled into your phone, just get outside and walk before starting your day.
• Get onto your bicycle! There are incredible gravel roads crisscrossing Vermont, and fantastic bike paths in many counties.
• Push yourself a little harder: when walking, walk more vigorously; when running, intersperse your jog with sprints to get your heart rate up.
• Walk the dog! Your pooch would love to get out more, and your mind and body will reap the benefits too.
• Take a high intensity training class, or find a yoga instructor you like, either in person or on Zoom. Check out the website of local gyms and yoga studios for class schedules.
• Plan a day hike with a friend. Be prepared by researching how long the hike is expected to take, and carry snacks, water and an emergency flashlight with you.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is Vermont’s only local, not-for-profit health plan. For over 30 years, the company has been enhancing the health and well-being of the Vermonters by offering innovative plans to individuals, seniors and businesses. Our employees are dedicated to developing new ways to support high quality care and programs and events that promote wellness. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, visit www.bcbsvt.com.