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Let’s take a walk

You glimpse them roaming neighborhoods in family packs or sometimes moving solo along a remote bike path or sidewalk. Many sport bright plumage, while others are covered head to toe.

Maui people who may never have walked for exercise in their lives are lacing up their shoes and discovering its many benefits. In a socially distanced world with stressors galore, walking, biking, swimming and gardening are just a few of the outdoor activities being prescribed to improve physical and mental health.

In other lives not so long ago, these newfound fitness buffs were housekeepers, bellmen, bartenders and maintenance staff. Many probably worked two jobs before the pandemic, and some three. Back then, they didn’t think they had time to exercise. Having tasted its benefits, don’t be surprised if they continue even after returning to work.

The coping skills we develop to get through the COVID-19 era could serve us well when it’s over. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exercise is one of the most important things we can do for our health whether we are stuck in the middle of a pandemic or not.

“The evidence is clear — physical activity can make you feel better, function better, and sleep better,” says guidance on the CDC’s website. “Even one session of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity reduces anxiety, and even short bouts of physical activity are beneficial. Being physically active also fosters normal growth and development, improves overall health, and can reduce the risk of various chronic diseases.”

Another extremely helpful coping skill is learning to define and accept what we can and cannot control. A guide to coping with COVID-19 produced by University of California, San Francisco’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences suggests making lists of the two.

Included in the department’s examples of things under our control are positive attitude, turning off the news, finding fun things to do at home, limiting social media and following CDC guidelines. Out of our control are things like whether others follow the rules of social distancing and mask wearing, people’s motives and how long the pandemic will last.

Finding ways to express kindness, patience and compassion to others are important, as is learning to be kind to ourselves. Ritual and routine are restorative. Our brains want predictable activity.

For all its faults, the pandemic has provided a unique opportunity to get in touch with a quieter, emptier side of our island home. For many of us, it is a chance to reconnect with why we choose to live here.

We may not have any control over when the pandemic ends or when the economy bounces back, but we do have a say in how we occupy our time while we wait.

It’s not too late to start lacing up those walking shoes.

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