Think of your favourite childhood memories…chances are they involved being outside.
Connecting with nature by working, playing and living outdoors is an essential part of our nature. We somehow feel more alive, our senses more acute to the many compelling attractions of being outside. When we recall those childhood memories, we’re doing things…really living…outside.
Today’s plugged-in, sedentary lifestyles are quite the opposite of those days of our youth. Outdoor games have been replaced with indoor, plugged-in recreation. The art of gardening has largely been lost. Our experience and connection with nature and the natural world around us has become minimal. All of these factors have led to significant health issues directly related to the sedentary lifestyle so prevalent within all ages of our communities, especially the young. The New England Journal of Medicine stated that if these health issues related to our sedentary lifestyles goes unchecked, this generation may live a shorter lifespan than their parents by as much as five years.
Come Alive Outside is a Landscape Profession led movement to counter these health implications by creating the awareness, intention and opportunity to live a healthier life outside. The five principles of Come Alive Outside are:
Get Active Outside
Connect with Nature
Grow something you can eat
Learn with your hands in the soil
By focusing the design of our home gardens, parks and greenspaces around these principles, we provide the opportunities to re-capture those childhood memories, connect with nature and live healthier lives.
Get Active Outside
We intuitively know that we feel better when we’re outside. Our senses are awakened to the natural world around us. Whether it be walking or running within our community, hiking on nature trails, or working and playing in our gardens, we feel better for having done so. Outdoor fitness equipment is now available within our parks, offering a wide range of stretching, strengthening and cardio activities.
Connect with Nature
This current generation of children has a greater academic understanding of nature and the environment than any generation before it, but little personal experience of it. It’s a universal truth that we protect those things that we have personal experience interaction with. We need to get our children outside and connected with nature. This can be as simple as observing the plants in our gardens, observing bugs and animals, watching the sky as different cloud formations come and go. Observing and learning that everything in nature is interconnected, including ourselves, is a powerful lesson that frames how we view and care for the natural world.
On average, children spend upwards of seven hours a day connected to some kind of electronic device. This has largely replaced outdoor play and physical activity, and the face-to-face social skills that are developed through outdoor play. Only 1 in 8 Canadian children get the minimal recommendation of one – two hours of physical activity a day. Children need to learn the lost art of unstructured play. Teaching them the outdoor games of previous generations not only strengthens intergenerational relations, but it’s a whole lot of fun for everyone.
Grow Something You Can Eat
Edible gardening is one of the fastest growing trends amongst homeowners. Learning the simple basics of gardening through growing something you can eat is tremendously rewarding, especially for children. It teaches them about our food sources, connects them with growing cycles, and provides an activity that they take great pride in, especially when the fruits of their efforts ends up on the dinner table.
Learn with Your Hands in the Soil
All of these activities can result in children “learning with their hands in the soil”. The connection with the earth and natural systems, especially gardening, provides a multitude of benefits. Numerous therapeutic benefits have been noted in recent studies, largely focused on our feeling healthier, happier and smarter.
Come Alive Outside Programs
Come Alive Outside assists in organizing five core community Programs:
Green Streets Challenge
With the support of Landscape Ontario, we produced nine events in Canada and another five in the US in 2018.
Come Alive Outside Design Challenge
The Design Challenge creates the opportunity for college and university students, high school, elementary and pre-school students to work together with landscape professionals to design and build natural schoolyards and play spaces in communities across North America.
Community Activity Passports
This community based program gives families extra incentive to stay active and take advantage of access to nearby nature. Children earn points and win prizes for visiting local parks, farmers markets and community events to complete tasks or find secret codes.
Mile a Day
Mile a Day is a walking challenge that encourages individuals and teams from different worksites to establish and track healthy walking habits. This program is active in several communities in Vermont, with 66% of participants reporting overall increased activity levels.
Park Rx is a national movement for doctors and healthcare providers to initiate the conversation with patients about the health benefits of spending time in nature through prescriptions for time outdoors.
Go to www.comealiveoutside.com to learn more about how you and your community can get involved.