December 21st, 2011 by

Credit: Bex Walton/Flickr

Recently, there’s been a huge push in this country to get people to be more active and maintain a healthier lifestyle. A major part of that effort is encouraging people to go outside. When we go outside, there’s a whole world of activities to explore: hiking, skiing, biking, kayaking and camping – just to name a few. There are also a lot of great things to see outside like trees, rivers and wildlife. But with a lot of us living in cities and suburbs, it’s not always easy to find the time and opportunity to really connect with nature.

President Obama is well aware of the issue and has made it a top priority. Last year, he launched America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) initiative, with the goal of reconnecting Americans to the natural environment and making outdoor recreation opportunities more accessible for the public. The First Lady also has her own campaign targeted towards kids called Let’s Move Outside. Together, these initiatives work with federal agencies to promote outdoor recreation, health, conservation, urban green spaces and youth engagement. People are starting to realize the importance and necessity of spending time outside. Nancy Sutley, chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, stated it best:

“The quality and accessibility of our outdoor spaces have a significant impact on the economic and physical health of American communities … actions under the America’s Great Outdoors initiative are reinvigorating a national discussion about the value of conservation, resulting in smart, innovative strategies and investments that respond to the priorities of American communities.”

Outdoor recreation has been shown to improve so many parts of our lives, from early childhood development to physical health to jobs and economic growth. But you don’t have to get all the way to the woods to recreate outside. Green spaces, like parks and trails in urban environments, can be just as beneficial to your health and well-being. I was encouraged to see this article from the Forest Service that draws the connection between city trees and better overall health. And it’s not just researchers saying it; I can tell you from my own experience. I’ve always been a pretty active person. I remember going camping and hiking as a kid with my family and going for runs around the lake on my college campus. But living in Washington, D.C. has been a real adjustment for me. In the city, I’ve learned how important it is to find green escapes (as I like to call them). They really are escapes because they transport you to another more peaceful world, even though you haven’t set foot outside the city. It just goes to show that you’re never too far from an outdoor adventure.