Pedestal Rocks.

New Year’s Outdoor Resolutions 2024

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I know it may sound strange, but I have resolved for the year 2024 to spend more time outdoors. As a kid, I was always playing outside and exploring various parts of the country with my family. We went camping in the Rocky Mountains and waterskiing in small lakes in Florida. When I got older I started biking through the Washington D.C. – Baltimore corridor, backpacking in the Appalachian Mountains, and even adventure racing in Arkansas. However, in the last couple of years, I have spent most of my time staring at computer screens and have not been able to indulge in my love for outdoor activities. Therefore, I have decided to change that and make a conscious effort to strap on my hiking boots, get my kayak wet, or roll my wheels on the mountain bike trails as often as I can.

Flatside Pinnacle Mountain.
Flatside Pinnacle Mountain.

Spending time outdoors offers a variety of mental and physical health benefits. Here are some of the key advantages:

Mental Health Benefits:

  1. Stress Reduction: Nature has a calming effect on the mind, helping to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Exposure to green spaces has been linked to lower cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress.
  2. Improved Mood: Outdoor activities stimulate the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of happiness and well-being. Sunlight exposure also triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural mood lifters.
  3. Enhanced Creativity: Spending time in natural environments has been associated with increased creativity and problem-solving skills. Nature encourages a more relaxed and open mindset, fostering creative thinking.
  4. Better Concentration: Exposure to nature has been linked to improved focus and concentration. Time spent outdoors may help reduce mental fatigue and increase attention span.
  5. Reduced Symptoms of Depression: Regular outdoor activities have been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression. Nature walks and outdoor exercise can contribute to a more positive mental state.
  6. Improved Sleep: Exposure to natural light during the day helps regulate the circadian rhythm, promoting better sleep quality. A regular sleep-wake cycle is crucial for overall mental health.
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Physical Health Benefits:

  1. Vitamin D Production: Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, which is essential for bone health, immune function, and overall well-being. Spending time outdoors helps the body produce an adequate amount of vitamin D.
  2. Increased Physical Activity: Outdoor activities encourage movement and exercise, contributing to improved cardiovascular health, weight management, and overall fitness. Activities such as hiking, biking, and gardening promote physical well-being.
  3. Enhanced Immune Function: Exposure to natural elements and fresh air can strengthen the immune system. Regular outdoor activity has been linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases.
  4. Reduced Inflammation: Nature exposure has been associated with lower levels of inflammation in the body, which is a key factor in various chronic diseases.
  5. Improved Eyesight: Spending time outdoors, especially in green spaces, may help reduce the risk of myopia (nearsightedness), particularly in children.
  6. Lower Blood Pressure: Being in nature has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of hypertension, contributing to better cardiovascular health.
  7. Enhanced Respiratory Health: Breathing in fresh air and spending time away from indoor pollutants can improve respiratory health and reduce the risk of respiratory illnesses.

Incorporating outdoor activities into your routine can have a positive impact on both mental and physical well-being. Whether it’s a nature walk, gardening, or outdoor sports, spending time in natural settings offers a holistic approach to health. We like to say, “Ask your doctor if getting off the couch is right for you.”

Hawksbill Crag.
Hawksbill Crag.

Where to start if you want to spend more time outside

On January 1, 2024, Arkansas Outside was showcased on the program, Good Morning Arkansas, on KATV Channel 7. The episode was filmed at the state-of-the-art visitor center, located within the scenic Pinnacle Mountain State Park. It’s worth noting that any visitor center across the Arkansas State Park network would have been a fitting choice. The park system is currently hosting First Day Hikes giving visitors a chance to experience the outdoors by hiking a trail. Most of these hikes are led by trained park interpreters who are there to help you learn about walking trails, safety, information on flora, fauna, and geology, and answer questions. This is a wonderful way to get started. Plus, the parks host these types of trails throughout the year. Don’t stop with a first-day hike, make hiking a part of your monthly or weekly routine.

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Here are some other groups around the state to look to for getting out on the trails.

The Community Bicyclist

Many of these organizations not only have hiking opportunities but also perform trail advocacy, maintenance, and construction that you can get involved with.

Hiking is just one of the many ways to enjoy the great outdoors in Arkansas. In the next few weeks, we will be publishing articles about other exciting activities such as paddling, climbing, trail running, road and mountain biking, and more. You can follow us on our social media pages for more updates, or even better, sign up for our free newsletter. Additionally, be sure to keep an eye on our event calendar for upcoming events throughout the state.

 

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