Why I Hate Exercising in the "Great Outdoors"

I recently ran across yet another article extolling the virtues of working out in “nature.” The author made gushing references to the wonders of sunshine, fresh air, gentle breezes, and a change of scenery. She did not, however, mention dangerous UV rays or ragweed or pollution or disease-bearing bugs or sudden thunderstorms or blistering heat. As far as I’m concerned, the list she ignored is a very good argument for sticking with indoor exercise – mall walking, dance classes, Pilates, the gym, or simply exercise videos right in your own home.

Actually, even as a kid I never understood the appeal of playing outdoors. My memories of recess are anything but fond, with everybody running around getting sunburned and dirty. I couldn’t wait for the school day to be over so I could wash my face and go sweat like a civilized person in a nice, clean ballet studio with beautiful music in my ears as opposed to the din of traffic near the playground. And now, with headline after headline reporting yet another deadly case of Lyme disease or hantavirus or rabies or anaphylactic shock from bee stings or West Nile or (almost unbelievably!) the Bubonic Plague, I’m more inclined than ever to want to stay away from “nature.”

Actually, even if I never encounter the insects or rodents that carry potentially lethal disorders, I don’t want any part of plain old mosquito bites or sand fleas at the beach. The idea of slathering Deet on top of sun protection simply doesn’t grab me. Also, when the pollen count is high, I turn into a sneezing mess, completely unable to do any effective exercise. I don’t have asthma, but I do have super bad seasonal allergies. People tell me I should just take systemic medication. Nope. I’ll simply avoid the triggers in the first place, thank you very much.

Because of my penchant for avoiding the “great outdoors,” somebody once wisecracked that my idea of roughing it is a sidewalk café. Not true. My idea of roughing it is a table near the window so I can look out at the sidewalk café. Whenever I sit at a café in the city, the noise and fumes spoil my meal, not to mention the conversation. And a sidewalk café in resort towns invariably involves flies and bees. This always reminds me of how my parents used to insist on having summer dinners in the backyard on the picnic table. Why was that supposed to be fun? I always wondered what the point was as the bees came swarming in to join the feast and sudden gusts of wind blew the tablecloth up so that all the beverages spilled. (This was apparently before the invention of those clip-on gadgets for the corners of the table that I see in the Lillian Vernon catalogue.) Oh, and picnics on a blanket. Don’t get me started. Ants. Everybody knows that.

But I digress. We were talking about exercise, not mealtime. The principle is the same, though. Indoors has climate control. Indoors has a pest-free environment. Indoors has even floor surfaces that don’t court tripping and falling. Indoors has artificial lighting that won’t give you skin cancer. Outdoors has none of the above.

If you do catch me outside, I’ll be the one on my way to the ballet school wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sun protection clothing, and sunglasses. That’s my idea of a safe and sensible approach to staying fit. Who’s with me?


Sondra Forsyth is Co-Editor-in-Chief of ThirdAge.com.

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