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Why You Should Get Outdoors on Your Next Vacation

The case for getting outside and enjoying nature on your next trip.

U.S. News & World Report

Why You Should Get Outdoors on Your Next Vacation

 Sunset at the Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Beyond the chance to surround yourself in picturesque scenery, there are plenty of physical and mental benefits that come with embracing the great outdoors on vacation. (Getty Images)

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States and lifelong supporter of the American Museum of Natural History once said, "Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children's children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance." 

Whether or not Americans have lived up to his challenge, there's no doubt that embracing the great outdoors has become a priority for travelers.

In October, retailer REI announced that it will close its 143 stores on Black Friday to encourage their 12,000 employees to do what they love most – be outside. REI is also advocating for other outdoor enthusiasts to skip the Friday after Thanksgiving shopping frenzy to take to the great outdoors instead with its #OptOutside campaign. In addition to a ZIP code lookup to the nearest trails across the United States, REI asks people to share their photos exploring the outdoors on social media with the hashtag #OptOutside.

Why Taking Time Off Is Good for Health and Wellbeing

According to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Association, there were 429 million paid vacation days forfeited in 2013, for reasons ranging from job insecurity to lack of a pet sitter. Studies have found that vacation deprivation lowers productivity, increases anxiety, harms family relationships and may be a culprit of high employee healthcare costs. The Framingham Heart Study found that women who went on vacation only once every six years were nearly eight times as likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than women who took at least two vacations each year.

And a vacation outdoors offers even more physical and mental benefits. Researchers at the Harvard Medical School advocate spending time outdoors to increase the body's natural production of vitamin D. Several studies have also found that children are spending less than 30 minutes each day in unstructured outdoor play and more than seven hours watching an electronic screen. According to the National Wildlife Federation, this trend has enormous health implications for the rise in childhood obesity, anxiety and depression. And studies have also found that spending time outdoors can yield health benefits such as improved distance vision, increased student performance on tests and lower stress levels.

There Are Easy Ways to Spend More Time in the Great Outdoors

There's hardly a reason to worry about disconnecting on vacation. After all, a day in nature no longer means a day without electronics. According to the 2015 KOA North American Camping Report, 83 percent of people reported having access to their cellphone as the most important camping amenity, 70 percent reported going online during their time in the woods and 41 percent reported choosing their camping location based on the availability of free Wi-Fi.

And if you're yearning to get outdoors during the cooler months, opportunities abound. In fact, January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, a time when many ski and snowboard vendors across the country offer lessons, gear and lift tickets for free or at a low cost to encourage enthusiasts of all ages to stay active and get outside.

Now is the Time to Plan a Family Adventure Outdoors

President Theodore Roosevelt's passion for nature led him to preserve 230 million of acres of land. And in September, President Obama launched his own passion project, the Every Kid In A Park initiative, which provides free passes for fourth graders and their families to visit more than 2,000 federally-managed places, including all national parks, for the 2015-16 school year. The goal of the initiative is to expose kids to the country's abundant national resources and to educate Americans about their natural heritage. Plus, the nationwide effort encourages families to spend more time bonding together outside and enjoying nature, instead of spending hours in front of electronic screens.

Theodore Roosevelt would have been the first one to sign his family up.

Tags: travel

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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