The Great Outdoors: A Healthy Lifestyle, and Loads of Fun!

Canoe, Kayak or Swim Against Nature Deficit Disorder

In his seminal work, Last Child in the Woods, best-selling  author Richard Louv argues that society is suffering from a phenomenon known as ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’: we have become distant from Nature, he says, to the detriment of our physical and mental health, but also to the Planet as a whole, since there is an inexorable link between an appreciation for Nature, and the fight to save the environment. Louv notes: “The shift in our relationship to the natural world is startling. For a new generation, Nature is more abstraction than reality. Increasingly, Nature is something to watch, to consume, to wear—to ignore.” We spend as much as 90 per cent of our times indoors, much to the detriment of our physical and mental health, with rising rates of obesity and anxiety proving that we are doing very little to combat stress in the most enjoyable way possible: by paddling up a river, swimming across a pristine lake or hiking up a nearby mountain. We have become sophisticated city dwellers in search of creature comforts that ultimately harm our physical health and mental wellbeing.

Sports in the Outdoors: An Engaging Way to Approach Nature

Louv notes that schools and parents these days spend plenty of time explaining the dire consequences of global warming to their children, yet ultimately, scare tactics will do little to encourage children to truly appreciate the beauty of Nature. Rather than fear, the focus should be on fun. There are many ways to foster a positive appreciation of Nature; everything from kayak expeditions to the whole family, to building a vertical garden together, or even planting autochthonous plants to rebuild destroyed ecosystems and bring back many bird and insect species that have long since abandoned our local areas. One recent study showed that simple activities like horticultural therapy are able to improve symptoms of ADHD in children, and physical activity in the Great Outdoors has also been shown to be highly effective in lowering stress levels. Simply being in the midst of Nature significantly lowers cortisol levels and enhances our sense of wellbeing. Louv notes that the sedentary lifestyle is doing little to ensure a full enjoyment of life: “As the young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow, physiologically and psychologically, and this reduces the richness of human experience.”

A Love of Nature: From Local to International

As children spend more time in the natural areas in the place they live, they begin to understand why our Planet is worth fighting for; the infinite myriad of species that grow and thrive in local areas are dependent on particular temperatures, flora and fauna that work together to form valuable ecosystems we cannot afford to lose. As children become more knowledgeable of their local areas, parents can take the opportunity to discuss topics like environmental corridors, defined by the University of Illinois as “areas in the landscape that contain and connect natural areas, open space, and scenic or other resources… These corridors protect environmentally sensitive areas by providing linkages in the landscape and potential buffers between natural and/or human communities.” This realization of the importance of maintaining local ecosystems can extend naturally to a concern of the Planet as a whole, with no doomsday scenarios being fed to kids. It becomes easier and less contrived  for the whole family to sit together and think of fun ways to reduce their carbon footprint, planning their next activity or holiday together  in a sustainable fashion Here are some easy tips to follow for those wishing to travel in a sustainable fashion.  for instance, “using trains, coaches, buses or bikes for holidays and day trips”, giving cruises a miss and supporting companies which offer responsible tourism.  We can encourage our children to help us create lists of how to lower our CO2 emissions while still having plenty of fun.

Sports: Take It To The Water!

Llandysul-Paddlers Outdoor Education Centre provides numerous activities the whole family can enjoy. Why not start out with a fun  kayak ride or, if you’re into adrenalin rushes, ride the rapids or cycling down a mountain as you take in the majesty of surrounding Nature? Like all great love stories, a meaningful relationship with Nature is one that cannot be forced; experience it, treasure it, and let it guide your thoughts and actions as you being to fight for a Planet so beautiful you cannot afford to lose it!

Pictures by Geoff and Ian