This Saturday is the 11th annual Get Outdoors Day (GO Day) sponsored by the US Forest Service, the American Recreation Coalition, and many other federal and non-profit organizations.
These groups want to encourage families to get outdoors and use the many wonderful national and state parks our country offers, or any local mountains, hills, parks, lakes, streams or beaches that are near where you live.
There are so many ways to enjoy the outdoors. What’s your favorite outdoor activity?
How you choose to spend the day doesn’t matter; being outside is what counts.
What is National Get Outdoors Day about?
The sponsors of National Get Outdoors Day have two main goals.
One, they want more people to use and recognize the value of publicly-supported lands. Today’s kids are tomorrow’s voters and public servants, and if we want to maintain our parks and protected spaces, or promote more green spaces in urban planning, we need a population that values these things.
Two, GO Day groups know it’s important to “encourage healthy, active outdoor fun,” especially for kids.
They point out American kids spend 6.5 hours a day on average watching a TV or computer screen; are more likely to play a computer game than ride a bike; and are four times more likely to be obese than the previous generation.
Teenagers are more stressed than ever before. Social media puts intense scrutiny on their lives, and they feel pressured to create or maintain a “perfect” image. Anxiety and depression are common problems among teens, as are eating disorders, substance abuse, bullying, and self harm.
Spending more time outdoors, exercising, playing with friends, enjoying the beauty of nature are all powerful antidotes to stress and a sedentary lifestyle.
Why is it important to get outdoors?
In the last few years I’ve read many global health studies looking at the connection between children’s activity levels and health.
Kids who exercise more and engage in outdoors sports and activities suffer less from obesity, attention deficit disorder, and anxiety/depression.
There’s also a movement for adding green spaces within schools—green schoolyards—to promote physical activity, mental health and ultimately improve school performance.
Doctors call it vitamin N(ature). 😊
One study in particular shows that kids who have long-term exposure to green spaces, such as green schoolyards or parks within walking distance of their homes, do better cognitively.
The “biophilia” hypothesis suggests humans have developed an innate tendency toward nature throughout the course of evolution. Proponents of the hypothesis argue nature affords children the opportunity to be creative and take risks while also providing opportunities for psychological restoration – all believed to have positive effects on brain development.
Adults can benefit from more time spent outdoors, as well. We aren’t immune to the stresses of life or the tendency to become couch potatoes.
Of course, spending one a day a year outside won’t make much of an impact on anyone’s life. But use GO Day as an incentive to plan more outdoor activities with your family and teach your children the value of exercise, outdoor recreation and the beauty of Mother Nature.