Benefits of Being Outdoors

Backpacking in the backcountry for 10 days in July left me with a new appreciation for the outdoors. I observed many parallels to life on my trek. In addition, watching teenage boys adapt to the backcountry left me with an awareness of the benefits of youth being outdoors. When I returned home, I found articles that articulated the benefits of being outside that I had observed.

Various benefits arise from being outdoors. Claire McCarthy[1] lists the following as benefits: appreciation of nature, vitamin D from sunshine, exercise from active play, opportunity to take risk, socialization in unorganized atmosphere, and development of executive functions (skills that help us multitask, plan, troubleshoot, prioritize, and negotiate). This list includes physical, emotional, and mental benefits. Danielle Cohen[2] cites other benefits in her blog: promotes creativity and imagination, provides different stimulation, prompts thinking, reduces stress and fatigue, encourages physical movement, teaches responsibility, and builds confidence. Again, this list includes physical, emotional, and mental benefits. Being outdoors definitely encourages all-around development. 

Kids clearly benefit physically, emotionally, and physical from being outside. As an adult, I found similar benefits. Also, I discovered a new appreciation from being in God’s creation. The beauty of delicate wild flowers, the grandeur of lofty mountains, the smell of ponderosa pines, the feel of cool streams, and the sound of repetitive thunder await those who venture into the backcountry. God’s creativity, order, power, beauty, wisdom, goodness, and eternalness are on display in creation as Romans 1:20 states. Furthermore, I discovered parallels to life as I journeyed through the backcountry. Below are some of the parallels to life I detected on my latest trek;

  1. Perspective-Atop a mountain a 360 view arises. Likewise, setting my mind on things above keeps life in proper perspective (Col 3:1-2).
  2. Focus-It is easy to long for things of comfort in the past or hunger for easier times in the future. However, we are called to live in the present rejoicing in what God has for us now (Psa 118:24).
  3. Trail-It is important to take the right trail and keep on it to end up in the right place. Comparatively, we must walk in the ways of the LORD as prescribed in His Word and stay on the path for life to end up with the abundant life (Psa 16:11; Pro 4:26-27; John 10:10).
  4.  Trust-It is vital to trust the abilities and decisions of the leaders of the trek for a successful time. Similarly, trust in the LORD brings peace and fruitfulness (Psa 28:7; Isa 26:3; Jer 17:7-8).
  5. Needs-Water can be scarce on a trek and must be secured. However, God supplies all our needs as we look to Him (Phil 4:19).
  6. Responsibilities-Bear bags need to be hung regardless of desire to do so or not.  Similarly, as believers in Christ, we are not to please ourselves but to live by the Spirit (Rom 8:5-6; Gal 5:16).
  7. Challenges-Backcountry provides many challenges of hiking, rocks, boulders, creek crossings, rain, low supplies, and long days. Likewise, life provides many challenges, but God makes us walk on our high places (Hab 3:19). 
  8. Abilities-Facing unexpected obstacles and circumstances, the outdoors stretches your mind, emotions, strength, and abilities. Comparatively, facing life with God yields amazing outcomes that are beyond what you thought you could handle (Rom 8:37; Phil 4:13).
  9. Relationships-Different people on your journey find different things challenging and need the help of others emotionally, mentally, and physically. As well, throughout life we are called to come along side others and encourage mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually (1 Thess 5:11, 14; Gal 6:2; Eph 4:29).
  10. Pace-Slowing down and detaching from electronics quiets lives. Likewise, slowing down refreshes our souls and revitalizes are ability and desire to pay attention to God (Psa 23:1-3; Jer 31:25). 

By God’s wisdom and love, He has provided the outdoors for us to reap multiple benefits. The benefits go well beyond physical, emotional, and mental. God created His world to bring Him glory. It brings Him glory to notice and enjoy what He has made as well as living in a relationship dependent on Him. Getting outside is one way God provides for nourishment for our whole being so that we bring Him glory and our souls are refreshed.

For your consideration: Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2008.

[1] Claire McCarthy, “6 Reasons Children Need to Play Outside,” Harvard Health Blog, October 27, 2020, accessed July 16, 2021, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/6-reasons-children-need-to-play-outside-2018052213880.      

[2] Danielle Cohen, “Why Kids Need to Spend time in Nature,” Child Mind Institute, December 5, 2018, accessed July 16, 2021, https://childmind.org/article/why-kids-need-to-spend-time-in-nature/.           

PJ Beets is passionate about encouraging women and children through the Scriptures and life to see the compassionate God who redeems the rejected by acceptance, the silenced by expression, the labored by grace, and the lonely by love in order to set them free to serve in His ordained place and way for them individually and corporately. She has served the Lord through Bible Study Fellowship and her home church in various capacities with women and children. Upon turning fifty, she sought the Lord on how He would have her finish well which began her journey at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies as well as a Doctor of Educational Ministry in Spiritual Formation, both from from DTS. PJ is married to Tom, has three children, and six grandchildren.

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