Reasons to Get Outdoors (While I’m Stuck Inside)

So here I am, wearing a tie and being all professional-like. Sitting in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, DC, gearing up for work.

I’m years removed from real youth, stuck in 9-to-5 grind mode. But today, my spirit is climbing trees and stomping around the little creek in my old neighborhood. I’ve got being out there on the brain. Like, more so than usual.

That’s because it’s Great Outdoors America Week, and I’m blogging to you live from a congressional briefing on the importance of staying connected to the outdoors.

A contradiction? HARDLY.

As a Wildlife Promise reader, the advantages of maintaining that special bond may seem obvious to you. But that’s not the case for everyone. That’s why the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) has assembled an All-Star lineup, including Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) and NWF’s own Danielle Moodie-Mills, to talk about the very real health, social and economic benefits we can reap if we, um, spend less time in rooms like this one, and make sure America’s kids follow suit.

So that’s why I sacrifice. To bring you the scoop!

Recent research shows that kids are spending about half as much time outside as they did 20 years ago, with many opting for screen-bound simulations of the world over the real thing. Aside from being a freakin’ shame, that shift may contribute to an increase in childhood obesity rates and other health problems–accompanied by an incremental hundred billion dollar cost to our health care system—and hurt school performance, behavior and future environmental stewardship (more reasons to get outside right here).

Economic benefits? Yeah, we’ve got that too. According to a new report from the Center for American Progress, recreation in national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges and other protected land sustains more than half a million jobs every year. The Outdoor Foundation, a member of OAK, has estimated that camping, hiking, hunting, angling and other activities support millions of jobs and contribute $730 billion annually to our economy.

Before this briefing is through, we’ll hear from Katie Adamson from YMCA; Stacy Bare, an Iraq veteran, from the Sierra ClubJuan Herrera, an Outdoor Nation Youth Ambassador; Craig Mackey, from the Outdoor Industry Association; and Arkansas Surgeon General  Joseph W. Thompson, MD, MPH, from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity. Stay tuned.