June is Great Outdoors Month – why? Because being outside is incredibly important to our health and well-being. There are many factors that can keep us indoors – a poor work/life balance, time pressures, and even bad weather, but it’s easy to make the outdoors a part of your family routine.
A 2018 survey commissioned by the National Trust found that today’s children spend half the amount of time playing outdoors that their parents did.
Spending prolonged periods indoors means that children (and adults) are becoming increasingly sedentary and unfit, too much time indoors can also have a negative effect on our mental health and wellbeing as we engage with one another less, and miss out on the stimulation of the world around us.
The NHS recommends that to stay healthy, 5-18 year olds should be doing at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, such as cycling and playground activities, to vigorous activity, such as running and tennis. Whilst adults aged 19-64 years should try to be active daily and do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, as well as strength exercises on 2 or more days per week.
This might sound like a lot to fit in, but it is much easier to achieve when you spend more time outdoors enjoying activities where movement comes naturally – it won’t even feel like exercise!
Here are a few ideas to enjoy the health benefits of the Great Outdoors that you can try easily;
Gardening can be very therapeutic, it gives us a sense of doing, satisfaction and accomplishment whilst enjoying the benefits of a gentle workout. Growing fresh produce is a great motivator to improve eating habits too. If you don’t have any outdoor space at home, look for a local gardening group or allotment – many towns take part in National Britain in Bloom schemes and are often looking for volunteers. Parents with children can look for Forest School sessions at local attractions – kids LOVE digging and getting muddy (and you probably will too!)
A recent study commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to evaluate how people in Ireland interact with green space found that just two trips a week to the park can greatly improve our physical and mental wellbeing.
Parks and open spaces are great for the whole family to enjoy – take a picnic and a football and make the most of the space around you. Many parks also host a weekly Park Run – free, weekly, 5km timed runs in local parks that are safe and open to everyone – strap on your activity tracker and get out there!
Walking is a great way to ease yourself into an outdoor exercise routine. It is a low-impact exercise that goes easy on your heart and joints. It is great for mental health and uplifting your mood too.
Walking is hugely beneficial to our heart health, a recent study found that just 30 minutes of exercise every morning may be as effective as medication at lowering blood pressure for the rest of the day.
Why not arrange to meet some friends for a regular stroll, join a local walking group or simply take a walk to the shops or school instead of driving?
The great thing about camping is that it can be enjoyed with a few close friends or your whole family. Camping is great for teambuilding and strengthening bonds as you work together to set up camp and keep it running smoothly. It also encourages you to solve problems, be more resourceful and practice independence.
You can look for a campsite if you fancy an overnight adventure, or if you prefer to start small, why not camp out with the kids in your back garden? At least you’ll be close to the kettle and shower if you aren’t feeling very adventurous!
The important message to take away is that the spending time in the Great Outdoors is hugely beneficial to our health, and that it is easy to incorporate into daily life. The summer is the perfect time to increase the time you spend outdoors.
Have a look out of the window right now and if there’s nothing stopping you, turn off this screen and enjoy the Great Outdoors for a few minutes – we bet you’ll feel better for it!