Spending more time outdoors, whether at the beach or camping, at the cottage, in the woods or simply in the garden or at the park is essential to both our physical and mental health.
Scientific research increasingly confirms it: outdoor living makes us happier, healthier and less stressed, in addition to boosting our creativity and reducing our risk of heart attack.
Did you know that spending two hours outdoors a week could have a positive effect on your health and well-being? At least, this is the recommended “dose” following a recent British poll, which correlated contact with nature and people’s level of happiness.
Looking at flowers, trees and other natural wonders, listening to the birds singing and the rustle of wind in the branches already bring us many benefits.
But that’s not all! Natural environments also harbour a multitude of chemical and biological substances with health benefits. For example, researchers discovered volatile antimicrobial compounds that help lower blood pressure and boost the immune system.
Yet, did you know that we spend 90 per cent of our time indoors? And that, nowadays, children spend half as much time outdoors than their parents did?
It is truly surprising to see how cut off we are from the natural world. However, humans have an innate tendency to look for links to nature and other life forms, according to the “biophilia” hypothesis or love of the living, issued by American biologist Edward O. Wilson.
Children, especially, benefit from playing in a green environment more often. Studies have shown that this develops their creativity and curiosity, improves their physical condition, reduces Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms and prevents nearsightedness.
ACTIVITIES TO SPEND MORE TIME OUTDOORS
In the Forest and Mountains
- Wildlife and bird watching;
- Having a picnic;
- Enjoying treetop adventure courses;
- Riding a bike.
At the Farm
- Picking fruits and vegetables;
- Visiting farm animals.
Near the Water
- Swimming, playing games and making sandcastles;
- Paddling on the water: kayaking, canoeing, etc.;
- Going fishing;
- Watching the sunset;
- Making a campfire.
Around the House
- Gardening and getting your hands dirty with soil (very therapeutic!);
- Reading, eating al fresco;
- Jogging in the park.
A FEW BASIC PRECAUTIONS FOR OUTDOOR LIVING
- Wear light, loose and light-coloured clothing, a hat or baseball cap.
- Apply UVA and UVB sunscreen to your exposed skin with an SPF of at least 30.
- Wear sunglasses to protect delicate skin around the eyes and prevent the risk of long-term cataract formation.
- Avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Special attention for children. Apply sunscreen to their skin at least 30 minutes before going out. Repeat every two hours or more often. Babies aged 6 months or less should not be exposed to the sun.
Prevent Heat Stroke
When it is very hot and humid:
- Look for shady areas.
- Reduce the intensity of your activities. If possible, do the most demanding activities early in the morning or at the end of the day when the temperature is a little cooler. Don’t over do it.
- Hydrate properly. Always have a bottle filled with water or sports drink with you. Don’t wait until you get thirsty to drink.
- Regularly splash water on your head, face and back of the neck.
Prevent Mosquito Bites
To avoid mosquito bites and the risk of getting the West Nile virus:
- Wear light-coloured long clothing and avoid scented products.
- Use an insect repellent. Apply a small amount on your clothing and exposed skin. Don’t put any on cuts, scratches or sunburns.
- Make sure window screens are in good condition on your home’s doors and windows, as well as mosquito nets on your tent and camping shelter.
Special attention for children. Parents should apply mosquito repellent to their child. To prevent bites on the face and head, spray mosquito repellent on your child’s hat. Don’t apply insect repellent on babies aged 2 months or less.
Prevent Tick Bites
To avoid tick bites and the risk of getting Lyme disease when you are doing activities in the forest, in the woods or near tall grass:
- Wear light-coloured long clothing, a hat and closed shoes, making sure to tuck the bottom of your pants in your socks.
- Use an insect repellent containing DEET or icaridin.
- Stay on the trails.
- When you come back, conduct a thorough inspection to find ticks on clothing or the skin.
- Upkeep vegetation around your house, especially where children play.
To carry in your backpack
for outdoor living
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