On April 22nd, we will celebrate Earth Day 2022. It’s a time where many people come together to celebrate the planet and acknowledge the changes that need to be implemented to preserve and protect our environment. According to earthday.org, the theme for Earth Day 2022 is #InvestInOurPlanet with the vision that “a green future is a prosperous future.” Although most people celebrate Earth Day in and around their homes, schools, or communities, you may wonder what physical therapy has to do with Earth Day? Well, think about where you might be doing most of your physical activities and exercises, and how the environment may have an impact on your overall health. As physical therapists, we believe that improving the health of our planet can also help improve the health of humans.

With many beautiful walking and running trails, bike paths, local and national parks, and lakes and oceans across the planet, many of us enjoy doing our physical activities and exercises outdoors. In 2020, running, jogging, and trail running were the most popular outdoor activities amongst people in the United States (6 years and older), accounting for a total of 63.75 million participants. The second most popular outdoor activity was hiking with 57.81 million participants. Many of these outdoor activities depend on preserving our natural environment, so it’s important that we acknowledge and take the proper measures to accomplish this.

A clean Earth is essential for improving our physical and mental health. Physical activity outdoors can be great for improving one’s cardiovascular health, but getting some fresh air and taking in green scenery on a sunny day can very much help boost your mood! Unfortunately, the rise of pollution contributes to increased contaminants in the environment, which can be very detrimental to our health when there is extended exposure to them.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), numerous human diseases and conditions have been linked with exposures to environmental contaminants including:

There are many ways to invest in our planet and health, but it always starts with educating yourself on the environment and climate change. You can start becoming more responsible and sustainable by reading books and watching documentaries on climate change, taking sustainability classes, joining social media conversations, or volunteering to pick up trash around your local community. Fortunately, there are more and more organizations raising awareness about sustainability and taking initiatives to create a greener Earth. It’s also important to protect yourself in areas with more unhealthy air.

Tips to protect yourself when you’re outdoors in more polluted areas include:

 

Written by Dr. Kimberly Le, PT, DPT

Resources:

  1. https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2022/
  2. https://www.statista.com/statistics/190202/number-of-participants-in-outdoor-activities-in-the-us-2009/
  3. https://www.epa.gov/report-environment/disease-and-conditions
  4. https://www.lung.org/clean-air/outdoors/10-tips-to-protect-yourself

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