**This post has been sponsored by Cooper Fitness Center to bring you this experience.**
After recently attending the 2018 American Camp Association (ACA) National Conference in Orlando, Florida, on behalf of Cooper Fitness Center, we reflected on their mission. Enriching lives through the camp experience—physically, socially, emotionally and mentally—mirrors what we offer at Cooper Fitness Center. Camp is a significant part of our youth programming, so we look forward to learning at this conference each year.
This year’s ACA camp theme was Positive Futures, and the keynote speaker was Florence Williams, author of the recent book, The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative. Williams’ work focuses on health, science and the environment, and she’s the mother of two campers herself.
New research shows just how much exercise our kids actually need—about an hour of exercise per day. So why not spend it outside? If you spend an hour and a half each day walking around plants and animals, you’ll be more likely to experience health benefits including lowered blood pressure, reduced cortisol (known as the “stress hormone”) and improvements in mood and alpha waves for relaxation.
Better health from being outside in nature
Williams delves even deeper into the science that looks at the relationship between nature and our health—and the connection that immersing ourselves in nature can lead to better health. She shares, “Walk into a forest and within five minutes your body and brain start to change. Your heart rate slows and facial muscles start to relax. Productivity and creativity will be boosted later in the day because your hardworking frontal lobes start to calm down.” (You can watch more of this TedX Talk here.)
Gender-equalizing, plus enhances social skills
Williams also talked about the gender-equalizing effect of being outside. Studies show girls who spend more time outside have a better body image, and also find more confidence in their careers.
Kids and parents alike are all spending much more time on screens than ever before. Being in nature and taking a break from screen time improves social skills and children’s abilities to read emotions on other people’s facial expressions, according to this recent study, highlighted in a Forbes article.
One additional reason to get out in nature is the age-old notion that it allows us to experience awe, an emotional response to perceptually vast stimuli that transcend current frames of reference. This feeling of amazement with the environment can lend us to being more generous and community-minded when we experience it because it gives perspective and makes us feel part of something larger than ourselves, says Williams. Awe is experienced most commonly (75% of the time) in natural settings, so any small interaction in nature is so simple to inspire awe in our children.
Although most of us now live in cities, getting a dose of nature shouldn’t be impossible. Spending time in city parks or even attending summer camp on our campus located in the heart of North Dallas allows us to escape into a little bubble of nature. As little as five hours per month outside in nature is shown to make you happier overall, according to Finnish researchers. The Finnish recommend this specific amount of time outdoors to ward off depression, which equates to just a little more than an hour a week.
Williams’ final advice…just go outside. Breathe.
Cooper Fitness Center presents Fit & Fun Day Camp starting June 4 for ages 5-13. Activities include various sports, physically-active games and overall wellness through daily fitness and nutrition lessons. Through these activities, campers will enhance their agility, balance, coordination and social interaction. Limited spots are still available for kids (ages 5-7) and youth (ages 8-13) camp, so reserve your camper’s spot today!
Lexie McClelland is the Camps and Youth Programs Manager at Cooper Fitness Center. Lexie studied Kinesiology and Sports Psychology at Texas Christian University and has played an integral role in the Cooper Youth Programs during the last year.
Cooper Fitness Center has offered youth programs for more than 25 years and provides a variety of year-round programs in addition to summer camp, including basketball, swimming, tennis, boxing, martial arts, soccer and other seasonal programming. Download the full 2018 Youth Programs Guide and register online at cooperyouth.com/Dallas.