When I think back to this time last year, I mainly remember all the walking. My son and I would head out at lunchtime to take a familiar loop around the neighbourhood. He’d bring a basketball to bounce along the footpath as I paused to take pictures of the tiniest of buds that seemed to be blooming right before my very eyes during those early weeks of the pandemic.
We started bringing bikes so we could go farther, feel freer. We strung up lights around the fence in the backyard, and we ended most evenings sitting outside and listening music under their soft glow. We instinctually knew what science has already proven: Being out in nature is good for our physical and mental health.
A couple of years ago, the U.K. government even managed to estimate, via results from a survey of 20,000 people, how much outside time we need in order to feel the benefits — and they concluded that it’s just two hours (or more) a week. Whether two hours is the true sweet spot for your physical own and mental well-being, it is a solid and achievable goal for you and your kids because it doesn’t have to happen all at once. You can accrue the time throughout the week with walks, hikes, trips to the park, and backyard barbecues.
With the weather finally cooling down for many of us, now is a good time to implement this challenge at home. Sit down together as a family to brainstorm activities you can do together outdoors to hit the mark each week. You could crush the goal in one day by camping out in the backyard, or you can start a habit of short after-dinner family walks. Your kids may already be blowing past two hours per week of outdoor time, but making it a family goal will get you outdoors, too.
Two hours is a good starting point, but if your family is already pretty active outdoors, you may want to up that goal to as much as 200-300 minutes (or about 3-5 hours) per week, which this particular study found to be the peak benefit. Once kids start tracking their outdoor time, they may even want to see how much time they can accrue to beat their own personal record.
And as you tackle this challenge, keep in mind that not all outdoor spaces are created equal — you want spaces that are rich in natural elements. That means, whenever possible, visiting a park with trees would be a better choice than taking a walk around a city block.