Two hours outdoors each week can boost wellbeing

Spending time in nature is great for all ages

Going to the lake for a paddle. Heading out for a hike. Planning a picnic. Spending the night under the stars. For many, enjoying time in nature sounds great—but can be difficult to prioritize with today’s busy schedules. But finding the time is well worth it.

An “indoor generation”
If you’ve ever wondered how to get your kids to unplug and reconnect—you’re not alone. Kids (and adults!) are increasing screen time and decreasing active play and exercise. Niall Murton, Camp & Outreach Director at YMCA Day Camp Streefland acknowledges that kids spend hours a day on a variety of devices and can almost be considered the “indoor generation.”

Why getting outside is great

“When kids spend time outdoors, friendships grow, independence is gained, there’s a natural sense of exploration and imagination can improve,” says Niall. He believes that just 30 minutes outside can provide a mental health break. “If most kids can be outside for 20 minutes, they will start to get over any feelings of boredom or discomfort—and start having fun!”

A study published in Scientific Reports says, “At least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing.” According to Harvard Medical School, spending more time outdoors can:

  • Increase vitamin D levels
  • Create more opportunities for exercise
  • Help you to feel happy—natural light can elevate mood
  • Improve concentration, and research shows kids with ADHD can focus better after being outdoors
  • Speed up healing

For kids new to the great outdoors

“Sometimes at Camp we might see kids who are scared of a spider. By the end of the week, they have transformed—they are finding frogs and naming them,” says Niall.

He suggests that you can help kids get acclimated outside by:

  • Talking about it as an “adventure”
  • Coming prepared with snacks, water and sunscreen
  • Engaging with them while outdoors—look for insects together, or plan a basic scavenger hunt for items in nature

The Y also offers a variety of year-round programming that help kids learn to love time outdoors, including Camps, Sports, Adventure Racing and Outdoor Leadership Development.

For busy adults

More and more healthcare providers around the world are giving more “nature prescriptions,” which might be setting the groundwork for guidelines similar to those outlined by Health and Human Services for weekly exercise.

Even if you haven’t received this specific advice from your healthcare provider, today’s a great time to give yourself a well-deserved visit to the natural world. Remember, you don’t necessarily need to go “up north”—it can be as simple as enjoying your yard, heading to a local park or playground or taking a stroll around the neighborhood.