REI’s Path Ahead

REI released a report called “The Path Ahead.

It’s a very interesting read that causes one to think about what could happen if people don’t spend more time outside. It’s something the folks at REI have been thinking about for quite a few years and why they started to promote the #OptOutside campaign. They give their employees paid time off on Black Friday so they can get outside.

Why do they want people to spend time outside? I imagine it has something to do with the fact they sell outdoor gear and clothing but I also believe REI must care about people and the environment. As canoe outfitters we also care about getting people into the outdoors, specifically into the Boundary Waters and Quetico Park. The average age of visitors in the canoe country is going up and if younger people don’t start visiting more we’ll eventually run out of guests.

It’s important to spend time outside. People who get outside frequently are happier, less stressed and healthier. What is the cost of so much time indoors in front of a screen? There are health problems as well as mental health problems associated with it such as nearsightedness, anxiety, depression, irregular sleep patterns, increased ADHD, obesity, heart disease and diabetes to name a few.

If you spend any time around kids you’ll know they aren’t in the best shape. The other day while working out at our local YMCA I watched as Senior Citizens were tested for strength, flexibility and stamina. I was quite impressed with their ability especially when I compared it to the 5th Grade gym class that was in shortly after that. These kids couldn’t do jumping jacks or touch their toes without grumbling and straining. When they were asked to run a mile the majority of them walked it because they were so out of breath.

It isn’t surprising when you consider these kids spend almost eight continuous hours sitting down at school. Most grades no longer have recess and lunch monitors, along with teachers, would prefer the kids stay seated and not roam around. Some of them have physical education but only every other quarter every other day and only until eighth or ninth grade. Many of these kids ride a bus home where they spend the rest of the day sitting down in front of a screen.

How is it possible these kids have so much screen time when they are in school? Phones rarely leave the hands of most students and in many classes students use tablets and computers instead of books. Gone are the days of looking something up in an Encyclopedia it’s all about Wikipedia these days. Even during free time when you would think kids would want to talk to each other they prefer to communicate via Snapchat, Instagram or text.

According to the report by REI kids between the ages of 11-14 spend 12 hours a day average in front of a screen and less time outside than prison inmates. They spend half as much time outside as kids did 20 years go.

What’s keeping these kids inside? I remember playing outside all of the time as a kid. We created so many fun games and imagined other worlds in our backyards. Is it Stranger Danger? Lack of green space? Or the lack of imagination due to too much time spent inside?

Whatever it is I agree with REI. We need to get more kids and adults to #OPTOutside, not just on Black Friday, but every day.

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