Week 5: Spend Time Outdoors

Studies have shown over and over the immense benefits of spending time outdoors – both for us and also for the earth. However, according to a study done by the EPA, respondents reported spending as much as 93% of their time in enclosed spaces (87% of their time inside a building and 6% of their time inside a vehicle). That leaves little time to enjoy this beautiful world we live in. So this week we’re encouraging you to Spend Time Outdoors!

Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors

Photo by Dmitry Gladkikh on Unsplash

Improved Mental Health

Multiple studies suggest that time spent in nature can help rid your mind and body of the stress and tension that we so often consider an inherent aspect of the daily grind. Researchers have observed that subjects who spend time in the forest demonstrate lower heart rates and cortisol (stress hormone) levels compared with subjects who spend the same amount of time in the city.

– Mariele Ventrice on One Green Planet

Improved Physical Health

According to a Harvard Health Letter, spending time outdoors is a prescription for better health. In addition to improved mental health (including improved concentration and increased happiness), they offer 3 potential physical benefits of spending time outside.

Your vitamin D levels will go up

The either-or of sunscreen and sunshine vitamin has stirred up a lot of controversy and debate between pro-sunscreen dermatologists and the vitamin D camp. But there is plenty of middle ground here: some limited sun exposure on short walks and the like, supplemented with vitamin D pills if necessary, and liberal use of sunscreen when you are out for extended periods, particularly during the middle of the day.

You’ll get more exercise

If you make getting outside a goal, that should mean less time in front of the television and computer and more time walking, biking, gardening, cleaning up the yard, and doing other things that put the body in motion.

You may heal faster

University of Pittsburgh researchers reported in 2005 that spinal surgery patients experienced less pain and stress and took fewer pain medications during their recoveries if they were exposed to natural light. An older study showed that the view out the window (trees vs. a brick wall) had an effect on patient recovery. Of course, windows and views are different than actually being outside, but we’re betting that adding a little fresh air to the equation couldn’t hurt and might help.


Studies have shown that the more time spent in nature, the more connected humans feel to each other and to the natural world. Stronger feelings of connection give us more reason to take care of the world we live in.

The effects are all the more profound if one’s time in nature involves an educational experience or volunteer effort. For instance, someone who volunteers to clean up a river and, in the process, learns about the importance of clean watersheds, is more likely to put other efforts toward reducing water pollution through individual actions or activism!

– Mariele Ventrice on One Green Planet

City Nature Challenge

Starting April 30th, Blacksburg is excited to participate in the City Nature Challenge! This international event encourages people all over the world to find and document wildlife in their cities. With COVID-19, you are encouraged to participate in your own backyard and in open spaces where social distancing can be practiced.

Learn more here.

Outdoor Exploration Backpacks Program

Early Birders Outdoor Exploration Backpacks and Stream Exploration Backpacks are now available to check out from libraries in the New River region! Tailored for grades 4-7, these backpacks are a great accessory to your outdoor adventures! Learn more here.

This program is supported by the 2020 Virginia Wildlife Grant Program through a partnership between the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia. The Town of Blacksburg is funding some of the Stream Exploration Backpacks. 

Local Places to Explore

Heritage Park – Photo by Trish Porter

From long hikes in the woods to picnics by the duckpond to outdoor playtime at the playground, we are fortunate to live in a place that makes getting outdoors fun and easy! Here are a few places to start but this is by no means an exhaustive list. We’d love to know what your favorite outdoor spot is!

Blacksburg Parks and Playgrounds

SEEDS Nature Center

Huckleberry Trail

Pandapas Pond

Heritage Park

Hiking Trails

Virginia Tech Duck Pond

Learn More!

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook as we talk about getting outdoors this week!

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