Don’t hit the ‘easy button.’ Instead, get outside and be productive with your activity.

This morning I was clearing my driveway of yet another moderate snowfall, when a neighbor pulled in to drop off a dog for a few days of care. He smiled and waved as I pulled my snowblower off to the side to let him by. He told my wife; “your poor husband; he has to do that entire half-mile driveway with just a snow thrower!” We had a good laugh over that one. This is a guy who plows his drive with a truck, (that sports a $5,000+ plow), and then spends 800 bucks for a gym membership to stay in shape. Go figure?

Americans, Alaskans included, spend a lot of time attempting to make things easier. Then spend more time figuring out what diet works best. The easy button is seldom the best button to hit. We want to stay young. We want to keep our health. Look around — watch what little kids do (before mom or dad gave them an iPhone babysitter). Kids run. They grab a shovel and dig a tunnel in the snow pile your plow pushed up.

The average American spends seven hours a day looking at a screen. That time is split roughly 50/50 between internet and TV. Surprisingly this figure isn’t that much higher than it was 50 years ago. There are not good numbers for individual screen time in 1970, but household television time was about six hours. That time has jumped a couple of hours — but remember, that is not individual TV time — just total time.

Maybe, instead of watching the NBA on the screen, it would be more productive to play ball at the gym with your kids. That would save a bag of chips from destruction and prevent a couple hundred calories of sugared drinks from being deposited under the belly-button. Shovel the porch and your walkway before breakfast. The coffee will taste better and cornflakes will be more flavorful. You are going to get older. Wrinkles will come as you earn them. White hair is inevitable.

Aches and pains? Yes, that will happen also. Work around them to the best of your ability. You may have a bad back. OK. Keep your leg health up — snowshoe or cross-country ski. Better than that, try to find something productive you can do that promotes physical maintenance without beating you to death.

There is a kid in our town who posts Facebook videos (of him) flipping around a grader tire in his yard to stay in shape. He should come to my house and throw firewood up on the woodpile. I bemoan nonproductive activities, but I’m the guy who bought a power ice auger back in 1974 to make beaver trapping easier. The machine is older than my wife and runs great — so I still use it.

We need our population to spend more of their leisure time outdoors. Familiarity with the natural world is a must if we are to keep ourselves, and our outdoors healthy. I listened to an Alaskan talk show host say that he did not care if a mine produced toxic waste. He just wanted jobs so folks could pay their bills. I get that, we all do. Our health is the price we pay.


Get outside and feel the snowflakes sting your face and the cold wind numb your ears. Watch a raven manage the breeze. Then tell me you would rather have the production waste.

Our physical well-being is the cost of the “easy button.” Our mental health is part of the money spent on internet service. Instead of texting, try calling and actually speaking to a live person. You might find yourself smiling more. Shovel a path to the garage. You will sleep better at night. Play with your dog in the yard. There are far too many households with no tracks in the snow around their houses. How many tracks are in your yard?

John Schandelmeier

Outdoor opinion columnist John Schandelmeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives with his family near Paxson. He is a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and two-time winner of the Yukon Quest.