As the long and lazy days of summer give way to homework, carpools, business meetings and deadlines, it’s easy to let outdoor time fall by the wayside. While fitness goals and a renewed commitment to self-care are all the buzz as spring temperatures climb, most of us slip from summer into winter with an ever-growing to-do list as the holidays loom large and chaotic on the horizon. Minor changes to your weekly routine can break this cycle, opening up time to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends in any season. And the benefits are many.
We know that time in nature and physical exercise reduce stress and aid in weight loss, but there’s a growing body of research suggesting that’s only the beginning. From boosting your immune systemand increasing creativity to reducing the risk of chronic disease, there’s a compelling argument for getting outdoors. These simple strategies can add a dose of the outdoors to each and every day.
Here are 13 tips you can use to make time for the outdoors in everyday life.
Tip #1. Start Small
Get yourself and your family used to the idea of outdoor time with short excursions like a bike ride on a local greenway, a picnic dinner or stroll to a neighborhood park. Make it easy to get out the front door and enjoy by keeping time commitment and gear to a minimum.
Tip #2. Stay Local
Start by looking for motivation in your own backyard. Check out trails, marinas and campgrounds near home, then gradually expand your search to road trip destinations in surrounding regions. You’ll be surprised by the hidden gems you’ll discover or re-discover.
Tip #3. Unplug
According to a recent Nielsen report, adults spend nearly half their day interacting with media. Take back your days by setting limits on screen time. Reserve an hour after dinner, or one afternoon each weekend, for unstructured time outdoors to rediscover yourself, your family and the world around you.
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Tip #4. Take Work Outdoors
A significant part of each week is devoted to the business of life, be that office work, childrearing or household chores. Get a fresh perspective and watch the creativity flow as you move your laptop to the patio or create a homework zone on the porch. With more employees working remotely than ever and Wi-Fi increasingly available at campgrounds, parks and other outdoor recreation venues, most anything you can do in the office can be accomplished in the great outdoors.
Tip #5. Make an Appointment
Whether it’s going to the gym, seeing the doctor or paying bills, nothing holds you accountable like blocking out time on your calendar. Treat these appointments as non-negotiables, and take time each week to scan your schedule for potential conflicts. Life happens, and that’s okay. A weekend camping trip can turn into a hike and picnic lunch, as long as you’re enjoying your natural surroundings.
Tip #6. Gear Up
Ready to expand your horizons? Have your outdoor gear prepared and ready for the trailhead / lake / campsite / (insert favorite outdoor destination) with ease. Load your backpack or dry bag with essentials like a first aid kit, sunscreen and sunglasses, and store the ready-to-go gear in a corner of the house that’s out of the way but accessible. Pump up bike tires and keep your favorite trail snacks and hydration on hand. Do the work now, so you can save time later.
Tip #7. Get Up Early
Some of the most serene moments in nature happen at sunrise, when wildlife is active and people are still in bed. Make the golden hour your own by setting the alarm an hour earlier. It can be as simple as sipping morning coffee with a view, and it will set an upbeat tone for your entire day.
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Tip #8. Find a Buddy
Enlist the help of a family member, friend, meet-up group or other equally-committed outdoor enthusiast to join your fun. For the best chance of success, coordinate schedules and establish a routine so your outings can become a mandatory part of every week.
Tip #9. Don’t Go Home
If rising early isn’t for you, turn that time between school, the end of the work day and dinner hour into an outdoor adventure. Take the after-school carpool for a walk around the community lake or find a route between the office and home for a trail walk or run. Even if you’re dragging at the start, you’re guaranteed to feel re-energized by the time you finish.
Tip #10. Excuse Yourself
Often we set high expectations of ourselves and our harshest critic comes from within. So it may come as a shock to learn that you can give yourself some breathing room. Allow yourself to say no to at least one commitment each season and reclaim that time for the outdoors. Choose a social or professional obligation, or bring the family together to select one extracurricular activity that can be dropped. What feels like a mandatory duty now will likely fade in importance once it’s let go.
Tip #11. Take a Class
If you’re motivated by structure, consider enrolling in a program that requires you to get outside at least once a week. Obvious candidates are walking and running programs, but you can also join a birding group or even enroll in an orienteering workshop. Find something you’re passionate about and build a network of like-minded enthusiasts around it.
Tip #12. Scout Out Epic Locations
Although you can’t visit Mount Rushmore or El Capitan every day, it’s always motivating to have those big trips and amazing road trip adventures in your sights. Pick an aspirational destination and design your outdoor time around the activities you’ll do there, like hiking on the John Muir Trail or rafting the historic Colorado River. Every adventure begins with a single step.
Tip #13. Set a Goal
Whether it be fitness level, backcountry skills, climbing technique or glamping amenities, there’s always something to be learned or improved upon in the outdoors. To keep things interesting, develop a new skill or tackle a new sport. Build a training schedule around your goal and you’ll have a year’s worth of outdoor adventure ready to go.