The older I get, the more I want to be outside. I plan entire trips around outdoor activities. I hunt down a hike or park wherever I am. Research shows multiple benefits of outdoor exercise and play. I have a sense of urgency fueled by the “use it or lose it” motto of aging. . I need to get outdoors.
Outdoor adventure can mean something different to each of us. It can range from walking through a garden to climbing Mt. Everest. Outdoor adventures are affected by our locale, our age, our experience and our risk-aversion ratio. I am a retired Baby Boomer so it feels like age plays a big role. However, if you take a look at our Curiosity and Wonder intro page you will see that I am eager to defy age as long as possible. In that page I share some research on how Curiosity and Learning will affect our aging. Learning is not always just acquiring knowledge. We can discover plenty of mental challenges when we are learning new physical activities. In addition, studies are coming out everyday touting the value of Nature Therapy.
So Let’s Go Learn Things Outdoors……
Nature Therapy: Benefits of the Outdoors
In an extensive study, done by the University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Medical College, results demonstrated that higher levels of neighborhood green space were associated with significantly lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress. Several recent studies are suggesting that time spent in nature is improving attention-deficit disorder in children.
Japan has introduced the concept of “Forest-Bathing”, a means to immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of the forest/nature. Author Dr. Qing Li, explains in the ground-breaking book; Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness.
Check out the Primal Play website for more benefits of the outdoors:
Get Outdoors with Moderate Activities
Hiking can be the entire focus of a trip like a trip to Zion National Park,it can also be included as just part of the itinerary for any destination. Every trip, whether urban or remote, we search out an opportunity to get outdoors and absorb the scenery. Even when visiting cities there are self-guided walking tours and often a hiking trail somewhere nearby. For instance even in the surreal urban setting of Las Vegas there are wonderful hiking trails a few miles outside of the city
Go! Learn More about Hiking…
Biking is almost as versatile as hiking. Most urban settings now have bike rental systems scattered across their city. Trails are not always multi-use so be sure to check that bikes are allowed. Even in the winter the fat tire trend is spreading and looks like a blast. Last summer when we circled the Utah National Parks we ran into a group of bikers with Trek Travel. A travel group putting together great trips on Trek bikes. I was ready to jump in right then and there. Providing Trek bikes, support and individualized experiences this group looks wonderful.
Go! Learn More About Biking…
Kayaking, canoeing and SUP require a body of water. If you are near water, there is no better way to experience it than on the water. The stand-up paddle boards are all the craze right now. These activities are great exercise and very Zen. My watercraft of choice is the kayak. Like hiking, you can find extreme experiences, if you want, or relaxing drifts, and anything in between. The water wildlife you can experience is priceless. We have kayaked with manatees, alligators, egrets, sandhill cranes, eagles and loons. The list goes on. I love being on the water when I get outdoors.
Go! Learn More About Kayaking…
Get Outdoors with Extreme Activities
When exploring outdoor activities it helps to divide ideas into the level of physical strenuousness. While I believe that it is essential for everyone to spend active time in nature, I do understand that some activities require more physicality than others. So this category will fall into the more “extreme” in physical and/or skill requirements.
Of course diving is at the top of my list. For the last 14 years we have been planning our trips around diving. Many people think this activity is beyond them, but I would encourage anyone in good health to try this activity. Diving has changed my life in so many ways. It has certainly given me a sense of accomplishment and empowerment. My observation skills are finely honed from diving. Underwater, the massive wildlife and the minute critters are all fascinating. On a global scale, my sense of personal responsibility for our planet has dramatically evolved. I worry about our plastic consumption and I am increasingly uncomfortable with marine life in captivity. An added benefit of this activity is the destinations are almost always in paradise.
Go! Learn More About SCUBA…
More Extreme Outdoor Adventures
There are many other activities that most of us would call “extreme”. Sometimes these are a lifetime bucket list item like skydiving or summiting Mt. Everest. Some have a lifetime fear that they want to overcome. We call those with a passion for the truly terrifying “adrenaline-junkies”. Even if we are averse to this level of risk, there are fascinating things to learn from these extreme athletes.
- Peak Bagging
- Extreme distance running, hiking, biking, etc
Off-roading can be ATVs, Jeeps or dirt bikes. I admit some might consider ATVs not environmental friendly but I do love them. So we all have our vices eh? We only rent ATVs occasionally and when we do we stay on designated trails. The sensory experience is similar to motorcycling but even more intense. It is fast and bumpy and dusty and amazing! The great thing is that you can explore areas that would be miles of hiking or otherwise inaccessible. ATVs are popular in the spectacular setting of Sedona, AZ and Moab, UT. Moab considers itself the “extreme sports” capital of the country.
Learn to Love our Planet
I hope I don’t seem hypocritical talking about loving the Planet right after owning up to my vice of ATVs. As SCUBA divers we learn the fragility of nature and this carries into every encounter with nature. I choose not to delve into environmental politics, but I do take my personal responsibilities to nature very seriously. The truth is that the more you get outdoors and experience it, the more you learn to respect and protect it. Therefore I beg you to get outdoors, for your own health and for the health of our Planet.
There are so many ways to get outdoors and learn about the flora and fauna of a region or even your backyard. I believe it is as important to discover the natural environment of a destination as it is the history and culture. They all play together.
- National Parks
- State Parks
- Botanical Gardens
Go! Learn Things in National & State Parks…
Get Outdoors with Ecotourism
When setting up your itineraries, try to research and find eco-friendly agencies. As divers we will leave an operator if they are not respectful of their own underwater resources. There are many ways to be eco-friendly in your travels.
Many agencies and NGO’s offer what has been labeled eco-tourism. One overarching agency is UNESCO, the science and education arm of the United Nations. You will often see a site with a UNESCO designation.
Recently we visited a couple of UNESCO designated sites on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. I appreciate the work they do. We were traveling with Red Travel Mexico a tour group committed to sustainable travel and eco-tourism. RED Travel designs unique experiences that create sustainable employment opportunities in rural communities, and that contribute to the conservation of species and habitat in natural protected areas in Mexico.
Get Outdoors with Family
Finally, I want to encourage you to get outdoors and grow but also help the next generations get outdoors. We live in a world that is increasingly crowded and plugged-in. Ironically, we are less connected with humankind and nature than ever before. It is essential for their health and well-being to get outdoors. It is also imperative for the health and well-being of our Planet. Future generations must learn to love and protect our world.
- Take your children and grandchildren on a hike.
- Volunteer yourself and your children for a local clean-up day.
- Help kids to develop observations skills by looking, listening and smelling everything they encounter outdoors.
Remember we started this discussion talking about “nature therapy”. You will be teaching your children, grandchildren and neighborhood school children to respect the Planet…AND you will be improving their physical, emotional and mental well-being.