“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” ~John Muir
When I was teenager my family went on a camping trip one summer in gorgeous Durango, Colorado. Days and days of hiking in the mountains and fishing in the streams had an enormous impact on me. I fell in love with the outdoors – and when the opportunity to move permanently to Colorado arose back in 1996, my husband and I jumped at it. Those of us lucky enough to live full time in Colorado are keenly aware that we live in a vacationland. We have more sunny days than almost anywhere else in the United States and a myriad of outdoor activities and adventures that are a mere stone’s throw away. It’s like living in a giant outdoor gym – fitness with a view.
Sadly, though, many of today’s youth are nature-deprived and an increasing number suffer from nature-deficit disorder. This generation of children and teens are far less connected to the outdoors than in any previous generation. A recent study showed that between 1997 and 2003, the proportion of American 9-12 year olds who spent time engaged in outdoor activities like hiking, gardening and fishing fell by 50%. While roughly 6.5 hours per day are spent with electronic media, only 30 minutes per week are spent on unstructured outdoor activities! Children today are six times more likely to play a computer game than ride a bike. Naturally, this trend has had an extremely negative impact on the health and well-being of America’s youth. As adults, it’s incumbent upon us to reach out and help reconnect youngsters with the Great Outdoors.
According to Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, “Healing the broken bond between our young and nature is in our self-interest, not only because aesthetics or justice demands it, but also because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depends upon it.” What can we do to reconnect our kids with nature? It’s simple: Have them unplug and go outside.
While Teddy Roosevelt was President some 100 years ago, he used his position to champion the cause of environmentalists, establishing wildlife refuges, setting aside public lands for national forests, and advocating for protection of natural resources. He knew intuitively back then that reconnecting with nature is a sure fire way to improve the health and well being of our citizens. His legacy was the preservation of public lands for Americans’ enjoyment and recreation. Thanks to Teddy Roosevelt, our opportunities for outdoor fitness and recreation all over the U.S. are nearly endless. So schedule outdoor excursions with your friends and family. Go walking, hiking and bike riding. You just have to take that first step – walking out the door.