In warmer parts of the country, spring has sprung. It’s a great time of year in those places to go outside for a walk, a hike, or a bike ride before it gets too hot. On the other hand, there might still be snow on the ground where you live. But whether the weather feels like spring or winter, March is a great time to get more exercise outdoors. Get up, get out, and try some of these activities!
You can get active outside in many different ways, says Kristen Laine. She writes the blog Great Kids, Great Outdoors for the Appalachian Mountain Club. That organization teaches people to enjoy the outdoors and help protect the natural world. Things teens can try range from observing plants and animals on a hike (great for beginners) to what are sometimes called extreme sports or wilderness activities.
Getting up and moving is exercise, for sure, but there are other healthy benefits of being outside, Laine notes. People who are in touch with the natural world often are less stressed and feel better. Heading out together with friends and family can help you connect and build healthy relationships. Outdoor activities are good for the environment, too, says Laine. People who get to know nature tend to be more interested in protecting it.
Volunteering is one way many teens get in touch with the natural world, Laine says. Building or cleaning up a trail can help you develop teamwork and leadership skills while you learn about the environment. Plus, those projects could meet community service requirements or beef up college apps. See whether you can help with a trail cleanup day in your area.
Extracurricular activities offer another way to volunteer and get moving. Already enjoy an outdoor sport? Perhaps you can establish it as a team or club sport at your school, Laine says. For instance, if you’re interested in cycling, try starting a cycling club. Or look for ways to teach younger kids a sport or an activity you love. A local elementary school might want to start an intramural soccer team or a hiking club, or help with a trail cleanup.
Looking to try a new activity yourself? Opportunities to learn outdoor sports are often available just for teenagers, Laine says. Take advantage of special programs for climbing, backpacking, or other adventure sports. Those classes are often free or much cheaper than learning the skills on your own (or later on, when you’re an adult). Check with your local parks and recreation department, or a nonprofit group that raises funds or cares for parks and wilderness areas.
Even walking can be a great way to actively enjoy the outdoors, Laine says: “You don’t have to be a thrill-seeker-you don’t have to be climbing mountains if you don’t want to–in order to be outside.” You don’t have to join a team either. Create a walking tour near your school or home, or in a nearby area. Include stops at points of interest such as parks, cafes, and historical markers. It’s similar to blazing a trail through the woods–which you can do, too, of course!
Move It Out
No matter how you get outside this spring, consider asking a friend or a family member to join you. “Think of something you do indoors that you might want to do outdoors,” Laine suggests. “If you are reading, read outside. Go sit on a park bench. If you’re hanging out with your friends, do it on a nice spot of grass at the playground.” While you’re at it, take a spin around the walking trail or a ride on the swings. Researchers have found that just getting outdoors means you’re more likely to be active and healthy, Laine says: “See what you can take outside.”
SMALL STEPS ADD UP
Would you believe a group of hikers covered the 2,178-mile Appalachian Trail in one day?. That’s what happened on Oct. 10, 2009, as part of “AT in a Day.” Hikers from Georgia to Maine each set out on a small portion of the trail to mark the 100th anniversary of the Dartmouth Outing Club at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. People liked being part of something big, says organizer Matt Dahlhausen, 20, a Dartmouth student “It was a really cool feeling for people,” he says, “to think that there were a lot of other people doing the same thing.”
Questing is one way to get out. You don’t need a suit of armor and a horse–just yourself, a sense of adventure, and sometimes a journal and stamp pad. That’s because outdoor scavenger hunts, letterboxing, and geocaching are all forms of questing. Those activities involve following clues to search outside for a “treasure,” and often you’ll get in a great walk or hike along the way. People share clues online or with fellow questers they know. Team up with friends or classmates to get started on this activity, and you’ll also spend some quality time exploring the outdoors.
Explore What’s Around
Go out and explore what’s near you. Pick a spot near your home, whether it’s a forested park or a route you take on paved sidewalks. Observe the ways spring–or any other season–comes to where you live. How do the seasons affect plant life and animals? Go out to the spot regularly, and document it with photos, videos, or drawings over the course of a season. While you’re at it, consider new ways to get there. Can you pedal a bike, strap on in-line skates, or ride a skateboard? Or just mix up your route every once in a while, taking a longer course or one with more hills to make it even more of a workout.