Canadians are getting outside and experiencing nature.

Photo by Kyle Empringham.

Photo by Kyle Empringham.

Let’s face facts. Right now, you’re at your computer screen, you’re likely sitting down, and you’re likely indoors (or for our mobile viewers, likely on public transit). This malevolent increase in a mostly sedentary lifestyle has some clear downfalls, but research shows that getting outside and experiencing nature’s the best way to combat the office blues. Across Canada, people are doing just that.

This week, the Government of Canada released its 2012 Canadian Nature Survey, providing insight into how Canadians appreciate and participate in nature-based activities. 24,000 Canadians aged 18 or over representing all 13 provinces and territories responded. Results revealed that 70% of Canadian adults chose to spend time outdoors in the past year (2011-2012), and almost half of Canadian adults travelled away from home to do so. The outdoor activities they engaged in ranged from more physical activities like hiking, rock climbing and horseback riding (64%) to simple relaxation (71%) or gardening/landscaping (51%). And with research that shows getting off your behind and doing these simple activities can reduce the risk of colon cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, and chronic chest pain - why wouldn’t you get outside?

Complementing the 2012 Canadian Nature Survey is the David Suzuki Foundation’s 2014 30x30 Nature Challenge. The Challenge is “an annual intervention to promote contact with the natural environment… Each spring, thousands of participants voluntarily pledge to spend 30 minutes outdoors, in nature, for 30 days during the month of May. ” This initiative was accompanied by a research study from the Department of Psychology at Trent University, where surveys were delivered to participants before and after the Challenge. Through these surveys, the average participant was found to nearly double the time spent doing physical activity in nature and nearly triple time spent relaxing in nature. It also found that participants were spending less time doing life-reductive tasks like talking on the phone, texting, and surfing on the internet.

Although these studies show great promise for the interaction of Canadians with nature, there is still work to be done. As the 30x30 Nature Challenge report notes, most participants are already knowledgeable about the importance of nature, both to themselves and to their communities. Our real opportunity lies in discussions and conversations with city-dwellers and people who do not have easy access nature, whether it be due to financial restrictions, a fear or misunderstanding of the unknown, or any other reason. Our solution lies in providing low-barrier means to get outside and experience nature, providing an opportunity for everyone to escape from the confines of sedentary life and explore the great Canadian wilderness.