A Busy Parent’s Guide to Getting Outside

Looking around, you’ve probably noticed how much we need to reconsider our current lifestyles. Teenagers in Ontario and Alberta are averaging 7 hours of screen time per day! Some of us lose hours of time every single day staring at our phones. It’s not hard to connect the dots between staring at a screen, having a sedentary lifestyle, and being overweight or obese. Childhood obesity (which currently affects 30% of children in Canada) leads to cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. These are serious health problems that can have deadly consequences. Parents may think they are powerless to change their children’s habits but here’s the thing: if you lead by example, they’re watching. Seriously.

Ok. Enough of the guilt trip. Let’s make some changes. Put the phones down and dedicate some serious time. Every. Single. Day. Dedicate this time to getting outside for at least an hour after work, after school – whatever it may be. Here’s some tips on how to make that happen.

1. Interact with your kids. Ok this one seems stupid obvious. But honestly, if you start acting a little bit more like one of your kids, you start to adjust to being outdoors and having a fun time doing it. Go for a bike ride with them. Get the toboggans out in the winter. Take snowboarding lessons together. Take them to the nearest hiking trail and wander around for an hour. I guarantee you and your child will both benefit from this.

2. Make quick dinners. Sitting down and eating with your family is, I believe, a super important family activity. Don’t rush this part of the day, but cut down on the prep by investing in crockpots and roasters to leave more time for the outdoors. Check out some one-pot dishes that can be made in as little as 15 minutes. Cook on your BBQ or outdoor fireplace. Batch cook. Meal prep on Sundays. Try different ways to minimize after work stress and time constraints.

3. Bring the inside out. This one might be less obvious. Bring your indoor activities to the outdoors. Have homework? Do some of it outside. Dinner time? Set up an outdoor space (it can be simple logs to sit on) to have dinner. Having a family dinner? Ask them all to dress appropriately and have it outdoors. Invest in making your outdoor space liveable.

4. Invest in some really good gear. Most of us can apply these ideas easily to the summer months but tend to hibernate when the winter comes around. You can, however, continue to spend lots of time outdoors in the winter if you invest in some quality gear. Cold = miserable.

5. Plan outdoor holidays in the “off” season. Makes plans to go winter camping. Rent a cabin or Yurt. Many Ontario Parks are open through the winter and have these options. Aside from a tropical trip down south, which definitely has its appeal, this option is relatively inexpensive and believe it or not, can be a super fun experience!

Investing in outdoor time every single day with your children can drastically improve your life. Outdoor time has been linked to a reduction of stress (yes, fresh air has some crazy benefits), increase in physical activity, decrease depressive episodes, and minimize anxiety.

How do you incorporate outdoor time into your lifestyle?

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