Research suggests that as many as nine out of ten Finnish children exceed the recommended daily screen time while only just over one fifth have enough physical activity. How can natural environments promote children’s physical activity and daily wellbeing, for example?
Based on research, we know that natural environments will naturally steer children towards physical activity while restraining restlessness. Moving around in nature develops children’s motor skills and boosts creativity. Indeed, it is fair to say that the woods are the best playground for children. This is why it is important to experience nature from early childhood, making it more likely that enthusiasm for outdoor recreation will also carry through to adulthood.
In adulthood, the health effects of nature are strongly reflected in the quality of life, everyday life management and working capacity. Research has shown that outdoor recreation decreases blood pressure and prevents stress and melancholy.
In other words, the medicine of nature is right outside everyone’s front door and is suitable for all age groups from children to older people. However, not that many people today possess the knowledge and skills relating to outdoor interests, which is why there is a high threshold to venture into the great outdoors. A quick way to lower this threshold is to read the ‘Go outdoors!’ guide (in Finnish) published by Metsähallitus. Good resources for exploring natural environments also include the Nationalparks.fi and Excursionmap.fi websites maintained by Metsähallitus and the instructor’s guide to building a natural adventure trail (in Finnish) developed by the Age Institute.
In addition, Finland’s public Nature Centres provide advice on basic hiking skills, gear and destinations for people of all ages. At their best, Nature Centres provide visitors with new learning experiences and activities.