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Every one of us could likely benefit from a little less screen time. It doesn’t seem to matter if you are young or old; screens have taken over our lives – especially in the last year. For my family, the best way to break away from our devices is to get outside.
Spending time outdoors is extremely valuable for mind, body and spirit. Outdoor time has some definite benefits to our bodies.
In 2020, we set a family goal to spend 1,000 hours outdoors before the end of the year. I realize that’s a steep benchmark for most people. Our lifestyle, combined with the unusual schedule changes due to the coronavirus pandemic, helped us reach our goal in mid-September. The physical benefits were incredible, but even more importantly, we connected as a family and spent less time watching TV and surfing the web.
This year we’ve altered our goal slightly, aiming to spend at least two hours a day outside. It’s not always easy, and if we fall short one day, we try to make up for it the next. You may think two hours a day is out of reach, but even if you only spend 20-30 minutes outdoors, you and your family will see benefits.
People avoid the outdoors for a host of reasons. In my quest to encourage families to spend more time outdoors, I’ve heard every excuse in the book. So, if you’re one of those people who has said, “I’d like to spend more time outdoors, but (fill in the blank).” I am here to help you find a way to get your family outdoors more.
If you are new to the outdoors, climbing the West Summit Trail at Pinnacle Mountain is NOT the place to start. The place to start is in your own backyard. Head outside for 10 minutes and look for birds, butterflies and wildflowers. When you get a little more daring, you can explore the spiders and snakes, but there is no rush!
Backyard games are fun, but when you are ready to venture out a little further, you may want to plan a family play-date in the outdoors. Try your hand at disc golf. There are courses all over Arkansas, and you can probably find one in your own neighborhood. If you want something a little more unusual, try footgolf. Footgolf is a combination of soccer and golf, and there are several courses in Arkansas.
Fishing is a great way to wet your feet in the outdoors. Here in Arkansas, you don’t even need to have your own rod and reel, thanks to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Tackle Loaner Program. Fishing rods and small tackle boxes are available at over 50 parks, museums and libraries across the state, where you can check them out for a few hours to enjoy a day of fishing. You can see a complete list of loaner locations here. Most of them are located close to bodies of water, but if you still need some fishing ideas, read about these Arkansas Fishing Spots.
Often, fear is a factor that prevents people from getting outdoors. Animals and insects that we don’t understand can be scary. Fortunately, programs are available at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Nature and Education Centers across the state to help teach us more about the outdoors and familiarize us so that we feel comfortable. The Commission also has a really cool family merit badge program that can motivate you to get outdoors more.
Learn more about select nature centers:
Ozark Highlands Nature Center
Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center
Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center
Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center
Arkansas State Parks aren’t just for camping! We are blessed with 52 beautiful state parks in Arkansas that offer a wide range of activities. You can hike, fish, swim, boat, golf and even ride horseback. There are hiking trails and biking trails, historic trails and brand-new trails. Each park also offers a range of interpretive programs to help you learn, discover and understand more about Arkansas. And if you want to try camping, you certainly can, but many of our state parks have some unique lodging opportunities with yurts, cabins, RV rentals and more.
I spent most of my childhood outdoors but lost interest in my twenties. When I tried standup paddleboarding on a family vacation in my early 30s, it rekindled my love for the outdoors. Sometimes all it takes to encourage us to be outdoors more is finding the right hobby.
Canoeing the Caddo River
Horseback Trail Riding
Hiking, biking and boating may not be your thing, and that’s okay. Gather up the family, pack a picnic lunch and head out on a scenic drive. Bring a camera and stop at every historical marker and scenic overlook along the way.
This summer, I encourage you to challenge yourself and your family to put down the technology and strive for just one hour a week of outdoor time. You can do it in a single chunk or as little as nine minutes a day! Arkansas is full of so many wonderful locations, and don’t just take my word for it. Check out these 10 Instagrammers that are showcasing the beauty of our state.
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