- - Sunday, August 5, 2012


Culture challenge of the week: Indoor captives

One beautiful day last week, I drove past the bright new gym that opened nearby. It’s two stories, with glass walls, the latest equipment, and perky personal trainers. I glimpsed rows of adults in motion, on treadmills, ellipticals and stair-steppers. Somewhere in the back, undoubtedly, others hefted free weights or strained for personal bests on the weight machines.

I couldn’t help but think, “C’mon outside. It’s a beautiful day!”

One of my neighbors recently voiced a similar thought. “No one’s outside anymore. Where is everyone?”


We’ve become an indoor culture, fueled, in part, by technology’s irresistible pull. Jogging a park path doesn’t offer second-by-second feedback on calories burned, metabolic rates, or exact distance covered (unless you’re wearing a sophisticated sports watch).

Kids don’t roam neighborhoods on bikes or play kickball in open spaces anymore. Sometimes that’s because parents worry it’s not safe to let their kids play outside. Often, however, it’s because our children — like us adults — are captives of the technology culture, plugged into electronics for the better part of the day. (I remember one little boy I saw at a park, head bent over his handheld electronic game. There he sat, unwilling to break off his game and join his sister on the slide, until it was time to leave.)

Our time indoors accumulates, not only because we feel the need to be socially connected, but also because we erroneously assume technology will enhance nearly every experience or task we undertake. Feel like reading? Surely it’s an experience better enjoyed with an e-reader. Need to exercise? Can’t do without the digital feedback found at the gym. Reaching out to friends? Chats, texts, tweets and Facebook are way cooler than making a phone call or meeting in person. And most of these things we prefer to do indoors (after all, sunlight makes it hard to read most screens).

Is this really a human way to live?

Most of us sense that, deep inside, it’s more satisfying to see others face to face and, similarly, to experience the natural beauty of God’s creation in person rather than from a picture or video. We’ve all seen pictures of the Grand Canyon, but we don’t stand in hushed awe before those pictures or gush about them over cocktails. But standing on the canyon floor — experiencing in person the canyon’s great beauty — renders us speechless and creates a lasting memory.

We know intuitively that being outdoors is good for the soul.

Turns out it’s good for the mind and body, too.

How to save your family: Get outside

Researchers have found that turning your face from glowing screens to the natural light of the sun has more benefits than you think.

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