Years of research have proved time spent outdoors is important for physical and mental health. According to climbing advocate group Access Fund, being outside in nature helps reduce stress hormones, high blood pressure, type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Now, during coronavirus, outdoor time has become even more vital — and it’s helped many families cope during work-from-home, homeschooling, lockdowns and self-isolations.

As you wait for your time on the vaccination schedule, how can you continue outdoor activities safely with your family?

What Families Are Doing Outdoors

According to April, May and June 2020 data from the Outdoor Industry Association, Americans have flocked to outdoor recreation. Most shelter-in-place mandates allowed people to go outside and engage in solo and family outdoor activities.

Running, cycling and hiking were three sports with the biggest gains in 2020. The NPD Group reported sales of bicycles — mainly in family bikes, kids’ bikes, leisure bikes and transit bikes — were up 63% from 2019. Consumers also reported waiting longer for a bike order or a bike repair as more people turned to the sport. An article on predicted the current bicycle shortage would last well into 2021.

Day hiking, bird watching and camping also rose in popularity. In a year-to-year comparison, participation rates for day hiking increased 8.4%, more than any other activity measured. Binocular sales increased 22% in June 2020. A study by Kampgrounds of America, Inc. found 21% of leisure travelers took a camping trip this past summer once restrictions were lifted and 42% say they will take planned camping trips during the remainder of 2020.

As summer turned to fall and winter, outdoor activities changed to winter sports: snowshoeing, ice fishing, skijoring and ice sailing.

The increase in outdoor recreation is not just a United States phenomenon; it happened all over the world. In Europe, rooftop terraces have become workout areas, apartment dwellers play tennis from their windows and walking the dog is no longer a chore but a preferred activity.

In Scotland, a report found an increase in the number of people visiting the outdoors to enjoy nature and stay healthy with 70% citing health as a motivator and 35% referencing managing stress. The Swiss National Park in eastern Switzerland had its busiest summer on record, with visitation an estimated 50% above normal and Finland’s Sipoonkorpi National Park is looking at a 200% increase in visitors this year.

Outdoors Is Safer

Families aren’t spending time outdoors only to escape the boredom of a home’s four walls. It’s also because outdoors activities are lower risk for coronavirus contagion than indoor activities.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “the COVID-19 virus is primarily spread from person to person among those in close contact within about 6 feet (2 meters). The virus spreads through respiratory droplets released into the air when talking, coughing, speaking, breathing or sneezing. In some situations, especially in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation, the COVID-19 virus can spread when a person is exposed to small droplets or aerosols that stay in the air for minutes to hours.”

When you’re outside, fresh air is constantly moving and dispersing these droplets. Maintaining social distancing outdoors — and wearing a mask when you can’t — means you’re less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus to become infected.

Some other reasons for the increase in family outdoor activities include:

  • A New Focus On Health. Coronavirus lockdowns provided time for people with underlying conditions to focus on their health: add exercise to their schedule, eat healthier meals, take care of their mental health and reduce their overall risk. Research shows a healthy body with a strong immune system will help fight coronavirus. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found upper respiratory tract infection decreased by 40% over 12 weeks among people who engaged in aerobic exercise five or more times per week.
  • A Way To Find Time Alone. Alone time is hard to find when families are confined to the home. One good way to gain some solitude is to step outside. According to Forbes magazine, just 10 minutes a day can increase empathy and build mental strength.
  • Reduce Stress And Boost Creativity. From plein air painters to writers living simply with nature to climbers tackling the Seven Summits, people always have turned to the outdoors for inspiration. Even just sitting outdoors can promote well-being and lower stress. It doesn’t matter if you are in a rural or urban setting to reap the benefits of the outdoors. Spending 120 minutes a week — all at once or in smaller blocks of time — will provide the most benefit.

Stay Protected With Local Field Rescue

Outdoor recreation is here to stay, and closer to home will continue for some time. According to No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, 38% of respondents say the COVID-19 pandemic will change their outdoor recreation behaviors long into the future.

As the seasons change, state protocols adjust and the vaccine rolls out, keeping the family safe from contagion is still a priority. No matter what activities you and your family are enjoying outdoors, make sure everyone is safe with Global Rescue.

Global Rescue has expanded their field rescue service to include areas within 100 miles of home. Now Global Rescue is there whether you’re hiking, kayaking, snowmobiling, fishing or simply enjoying the outdoors and get ill or injured and you’re unable to get to safety on your own. Click here to learn more.