Outdoor Experiences and Our Health
By Martin LeBlanc, Sierra Club’s Mission Outdoors Director
Yesterday, the Sierra Club and our partners made two big moves toward ensuring that all of our nation’s children and youth are getting outdoors and connecting with nature. The Outdoors
Alliance for Kids (OAK), of which the Sierra Club is a founding member, launched a new Get Your Nature On Facebook application that will provide inspiration, encouragement and resources to young people who commit to getting physically active outdoors in nature this year. Sierra Club also joined other OAK members at a Let’s Move Outside! event at the White House, where DC-area high school students took part in activities including, rock climbing, a camping demo, a kayak clinic, fly-fishing lessons, and a mountain biking course. It was a day for remembering the first two parts of Sierra Club’s mission: exploring and enjoying the planet.
The Sierra Club was founded on a love of getting outdoors. We believe in the power of outdoor experiences to improve the mind, body, and spirit. We share this belief with the First Lady’s Lets Move Outside! campaign to end childhood obesity within one generation. Many of Sierra Club’s programs focus on not just connecting children, youth, and families with experiences in nature, but getting them moving outside. This includes our Inner City Outings, Building Bridges to the Outdoors, Military Families Outdoors programs, and more. We are even supporting outdoor experiences for 7,000 military children and families this summer. In addition to simply getting them outdoors, the Sierra Club is working to ensure that those outdoor experiences remain the healthy, active options that they should be for people in every community. The benefits of outdoor experiences are wide and varied:
- Regular outdoor activity can actually improve your physical and mental health
- Kids who spend time in parks or green spaces are more likely to be physically fit
- Moving and playing outdoors can lead to healthier body weights, stronger muscles and bones, healthy hearts and better eyesight
But the threats to healthy outdoor experiences are equally important, ranging from mercury exposure to soot and smog pollution. The Sierra Club is committed to combating these pollution threats and protecting both our health and our ability to enjoy the outdoors safely. Our Conservation Director Sarah Hodgdon, recently wrote a great piece for CNN emphasizing that children should not need inhalers to spend time outside this summer.
Here at the Sierra Club, our efforts to protect health and connect with nature are ongoing and simultaneous, because we believe that personal and community investment in conservation issues begins outdoors. People are inspired to protect what they know and love; the experiences they want to share with their friends, family, and children. It is essential to ensure that people from all communities have opportunities to have healthy, safe, easy and, most of all, fun experiences outdoors.
This is why Sierra Club helped found the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK), a national alliance working to reconnect children, youth and families with nature and the outdoors for their health and the health of the planet. The Get Your Nature On challenge will encourage people to commit to that health. The challenge supports the America’s Great Outdoors initiative’s recommendation to launch a public awareness campaign that demonstrates how experiencing America’s great outdoors is fun, easy and healthy. It also supports the first lady’s Let’s Move Outside campaign by encouraging children and youth to use America’s green spaces and natural places to improve their physical fitness.
The Sierra Club is committed to a future where all children, youth, and families have opportunities for not just fun and inspiring experiences in nature, but healthy ones, too. In this way, we are staying true to our mission to explore, enjoy, and protect the planet.