Nature Can Be The Best Medicine. Keep Yourself Healthy So You Can Continue To PlayAncient medical systems from Ayurveda to Chinese medicine have long believed nature to be a form of medicine. Roman philosophers and physicians advised walking in gardens to improve mental health and sleep. Closer to home and modern times, into the early 20th century American medical doctors wrote prescriptions for nature exposure as a means of reducing stress and improving mental outlook. The Pines, The Highlands, The Greenbrier, Crest View, these were private resorts well-heeled urbanites took to at the turn of the last century for relief from and treatment of mild nervous diseases and stress disorders.
The 2012 book by Eva M. Selhub, MD and Alan C. Logan, ND, Your Brain on Nature, says, “The anecdotal notion was that nature could have a medicinal effect, providing a tonic for the brain as it dealt with a world that was becoming increasingly complex.” Eventually, as medicine became increasingly scientific, such ideas, which had no evidentiary support at the time, were lumped in with snake oil and baldness cures. But living in Jackson Hole, we know differently.
“Whether I’m running, skiing, hiking, or reading a book in the sun, being outside is my life blood,” says Jess McMillan, a Pilates instructor and one of the top free skiers in the world (she won the 2007 International Free Skiing Association Women’s World Tour and, most every year since, has continued to be in the top 5 at the end-of-season rankings). “It is a way for me to find tranquility, push my limits, and feel connected.”
Recently science has started to back this up. Japanese researchers found that walking in the woods (versus inside on a treadmill) was associated with a greater increase in mood and feelings of vigor in subjects. Also, subjects who walked outside had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. But playing outside can be a catch-22, especially the way we here in Jackson play outside. Our outdoor sports, skiing, mountain biking, running, hiking, can hurt or injure us. “Many outdoor activities are unidirectional, creating muscle imbalances and wear and tear on our joints,” McMillan says.
The best way to stay injury free is make sure your muscles are balanced and your joints are working in a full range of motion. Pilates can help strengthen weak muscles and correct misalignment. It is also a great form of exercise when you are injured. You may not be ready to get back to the gym or in the mountains, but you can get a great workout on the reformer. I also love MELT classes, TRX, and kettlebell workouts. —Jess McMillan
For those rehabbing so that they can get back outside, Medicine Wheel Wellness has group recovery classes that include Knee Rehab, Therapeutic Yoga, Restorative YogaTouch, Mat Pilates, and Durability. The latter uses foam rolling, stretching, yoga, balance exercises, and guided imagery.
"A study has shown that a hike elevates the neurosteroid dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which declines with aging and whose administration has been shown to improve cognitive functioning in adults. An urban walk did not have this effect on DHEA."
Medicine Wheel’s “unconventional training” classes are about as multi-directional as possible. Instructor Adam Dowell is a certified steel mace trainer. The offset weight of a mace requires constant focus and concentration to control and also to initiate full-body rotational movements. It adds up to a fitness class that requires more stabilization than single-plane workouts.
The Steel Mace has been around since roughly 1,300 BC and has been used by many cultures including Persian Warriors. At Medicine Wheel Wellness, it is used to get every fiber of your muscles to fire, resulting in a dynamic strength and core stability workout.