You may not be able to get too far from the house, but going outdoors holds both physical and mental health benefits, Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education execs say. Read on for their strategies for integrating outdoor fun into a remote routine.
Last year, a study led by the University of Exeter offered a piece of prudent advice on mental health and well-being: If you spend two hours a week outside, it can be a major improvement to both your health and mental state.
The study obviously takes on additional relevance given that we’re encouraged to stay socially distant now. And that’s a point that the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education says that association execs should be mindful of as they try to survive the strange global crisis that is COVID-19—and that leaders should encourage it, too.
“We are contributing to the well-being of the country, of our community, and of our employees by encouraging them to go outside and encouraging them to take care of their personal well-being,” said Victoria Lopez-Herrera, an AORE board member and senior associate director of The University of Texas at San Antonio’s campus recreation program.
I’m seeing the same landscape through different eyes right now and in different perspectives.
While AORE typically advocates for the field of outdoor recreation and the industry that supports it, given the recent shift in workplaces, it’s worth remembering that integrating the outdoors into a work routine can have huge benefits on your mental and physical health.
A few tips on working outdoor time into work-from-home time:
Don’t look at going outdoors as necessarily being a big project. Often, there’s a perception that going outdoors needs a lot of planning and a ton of gear. AORE emphasizes that the opposite is true. “The outdoors is open to everyone and everybody, and you can do it in any way,” Lopez-Herrera said. “So if you take your laptop outside and you just sit outside for 30 minutes during a meeting and you’re doing your work, that is still beneficial—just as much as putting on a backpack and going on a hike.” Executive Director Jeannette Stawski, CAE, agrees, adding that AORE sees lightweight outdoor excursions as a gateway to more advanced activities later on.
Try for a practical approach to the outdoors. Right now, it may not be possible to get too far from your home, and you may also have kids to integrate into your outdoor routine. Additionally, your walking buddies might not be able to walk close to you because of social-distancing restrictions. But there are ways to still get some good outdoors time in, even with a friend. And don’t treat simply being close to home as limiting. Stawski said this closeness to home and her tendency to bring her son on walks helped lead her to discover a recreation area in her own neighborhood that she didn’t know was there until recently. “I’m seeing the same landscape through different eyes right now and in different perspectives,” she said.
If going outside isn’t an option, there are alternatives. One challenge that some might face with going outdoors during the COVID-19 crisis are more restrictive local ordinances stemming from outbreaks, or the person may be located in a city where social distancing is more difficult. Additionally, you may simply be drowning in meetings. If your job is limiting outside time, consider working near a window or from your porch—or using online tools to simulate some of those outdoor vibes. “There are virtual tours right now of Yosemite and national parks where you can kind of mentally transport yourself into beautiful spaces, and sometimes just seeing those landscapes or watching the waves crash can kind of infuse that,” Stawski said.
And sometimes, outdoor physical activity can even directly align with workday productivity with some clever thinking—something Lopez-Herrera and Stawski have taken advantage of through walk-and-talk conversations.
“She’s in Michigan, I’m in Texas, but we were on the phone, and we were both outside walking,” Lopez-Herrera said.