Ten Ways to Spend More Time Outside

Spending a little time outside every day or every week can help create a quiet environment for reflection and away from the pressures of school. Some of these activities will even push you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to explore and discover.

By Kaitlin Meyer — January 24, 2023


Ten Ways to Spend More Time Outside

Spending a healthy amount of time outside can be difficult while attending school, especially during the winter. This article will outline ten ways to spend more time outside, whether you have a busy schedule or are looking to add some adventures to your week. Even though winter and days tend to be short and gray, you will still benefit from indirect sun exposure. Believe it or not, when it's completely overcast, your body will be able to absorb Vitamin D, and your retinas will receive signals from the sun to wake you up and help set your sleep clock.

Walk or Ride a Bike to Class

One of the easiest ways to log some time out of doors is during commute time. Instead of taking the bus or driving to class, walk or bike. You can also walk or bike to work, weekend activities, and other events within reason. Walking is a great way to get out in the cold winter when it's hard to spend time outside. Just be careful riding your bike if the roads are icy or slippery!

Hang a Hammock

Perhaps you want time spent outside to be more laid back. You don't have to go mountain biking or participate in sports to get your Vitamin D fix. Instead, try setting up a hammock between classes to eat lunch, get some homework done, or sunbathe. This might not be an option during winter, but if you live in the appropriate climate, take advantage of the warm weather!

Participate in Seasonal Activities

Perhaps you grew up in a warm climate but are now attending school somewhere that gets cold and snowy. This is a great opportunity to try ice skating, cross-country skiing, or snow-shooing. These activities will allow you to get outside, stay active, and spend good time with friends. If you live in a warm climate, plan a beach day or volleyball date with some people. If you're like me and you go to school in the Midwest, it's generally pretty overcast and often rainy or snowy outside. Don't let this be an excuse to spend all your time inside. Sledding, building jumps, and other activities listed above can still make for a great afternoon or weekend activity.

Take a Hike

This is an option no matter what the weather is. Hiking can be enjoyable even in the rain. Take advantage of this opportunity to explore the place you live in for school. Explore somewhere new and get to know the local landscape. Many state and national parks also have educational plaques, visitor centers, and tours that will teach you about the history and formation of your natural landscape. For example, I attend school in Ohio. I spent my first semester learning about how the features I drove by and walked on day after day were formed by immense pressure by glaciers on the landscape 12,000 years ago. You will also have the opportunity to learn about the land heritage and who the land belonged to before your school or town was founded.

Go Star Gazing

Though a weather-dependent activity, Star Gazing promises to be an exciting experience. Take the time to learn a little about your area's constellations during the current season before you head out. Try a google search first, and if you want to go more in-depth, purchase a star chart. You can set the star chart to your current month and take it in the field with you to identify constellations. A second important aspect of this activity is choosing a location. If you live in a big city, you must drive out of town, so the stars are visible. Look up public lands and find a big open spot to settle in. Websites such as darksitefinder.com will help you find a spot near you with minimal light pollution so that you can see constellations.

Join Intramural Sports

Most schools have some form of intramural sports for those who are not full-blown student-athletes. Common sports include soccer, basketball, volleyball, and softball, as well as others. No one in the league is an expert, and it can be a great way to get outside, stay active, and get to know more of your peers.

Sign up for a Day of Rock Climbing

Many areas, including parts of the Midwest, have a wealth of natural rock climbers have explored over the years. Find a local climbing gym or do a quick google search to find a company that will take you out for the day and introduces you to the sport. While getting into rock climbing can cost a little money initially, it's a very low-cost activity once you have all the gear. If you choose to pursue this sport, ask if anyone at your school has the appropriate gear and can help get you started. If not, get a feel for it at the gym a few times before choosing to invest.

Spend a Day on the River

This can be anything from a lazy day on the inner tubes with friends to a full-blown white-water adventure-whatever your speed! You may have to wait until the river warms up for this activity.

Go Camping

Gather some friends and plan a camping trip. You can opt for car camping or hike a few miles for a true wilderness experience. Search for state or national park camping rules before heading out. You can plan hikes during the day, spend quality time cooking food, hanging out by the fire, reading, and spending time away from technology.

Watch the Sunrise

Sometimes it's worth it to wake up a little early. Prep coffee or other hot drinks, so they are ready to make the night before. When you wake up, pour some hot coffee into a thermos and head out to an open, elevated location. Enjoy the peace of the outdoors, listen to the birds chirp, and watch as the sunrise color evolves. As an added benefit, watching the sunrise will send signals to your retinas that will help wake you up for the day and set your sleep cycle.

As you pursue one or more of these activities, remember the resources at your disposal! Many colleges have outdoor programs that allow students to rent outdoor gear and even sign up for a guided day and overnight trips with peers. In addition, some schools will let you borrow a vehicle for a school-approved educational trip. Stargazing and many other activities could qualify. Spending a little time outside every day or every week can help create a quiet environment for reflection and away from the pressures of school. In addition, some of these activities will push you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to explore and discover.

This mindset will also help your studies if you bring it back from the outdoors and into the classroom!

Kaitlin Meyer

Kaitlin Meyer

Kaitlin Meyer is a Master's student at Ohio State University (OSU), and is writing a thesis on snow microstructure inspired by her love for skiing. She earned a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Wyoming Catholic College (WCC).
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