There are many reasons for getting outside as frequently as possible, but let me start by saying that it is really difficult to play horseshoes in the middle of a beautiful mountain bike ride with my friends indoors…
Joking aside, all of us at NICA and those involved with interscholastic cycling teams across the country have seen first-hand the power of being outdoors to improve overall physical health, increase cognitive abilities and attention spans, decrease anger and stress and help build a strong connection and understanding of the importance of caring for the environment and the critters that live outdoors.
As a society, it is my strong belief that we need to do more to ensure that kids have opportunities to be outside and to have both structured and “free” time to explore and play outdoors. Thinking back over the nearly fifty years that I have been alive, it strikes me that my most memorable experiences have mostly been outside. Why is this?
Maybe it’s because my outside explorations and adventures have been with those that I am closest to and have taken place when my body is active and my mind alert. All my senses are alive when I am outside and, as a result, my body, mind and soul are firing on all pistons! It is during these experiences, that I have been fortunate enough to experience the change of seasons like the photo here of a spectacular trail in Duluth, Minnesota. Being immersed in a scene like this with the leaves literally falling as I rode the trail and the light wind blowing as I listen to the leaves crunch under the weight of my bike is impossible to recreate indoors. Moreover, the smile on my colleague’s face when we came to a stop was definitely bigger and more sincere than any smile I have seen on her face during a meeting indoors at our office!
For these reasons and to help combat our society’s over-reliance on electronic entertainment, I encourage you to #OptOutside this holiday season and throughout the year. Get some friends together, pack some snacks and go explore somewhere outside together. Whether you decide to bike, hike, walk or just sit somewhere outside, look closely at what you see, breath deeply and let time slow down. And, do not look at your phone or allow your companions to use their phones. Just be in the moment and experience the great outdoors. Look at the foliage before you and allow your senses to open…..
Upon returning home, ask yourself, “did that experience make me feel better?” My guess is that the answer will be a resounding “YES!”. If this is the case, make getting outside a regular part of your daily routine and, if at all possible, encourage any kids that you may be in touch with to do the same as it will be good for them and our society.
If you are interested in learning more about how to help get #morekidsonbikes outside and/or you may want to learn how to become a NICA licensed coach in order to get outside regularly with teenagers in your community, please visit www.nationalmtb.org and follow us @nationalmtb.