The Great Outdoors: Why you should take up an outdoor hobby and how to go about it

Often, we neglect the call of the wild and stay confined to indoor-convenient zones. Having an outdoor hobby however, has numerous benefits. Personally, I grew up with a stereotypical “big city life” and never really experienced the joy of being outdoors ‘till I was much older, and decided to try scuba diving during a holiday to Thailand. Since then, I’ve become a divemaster, and have tried various other outdoor activities that I truly believe have made me into a freer, happier and more well rounded person. I can honestly say that being out in nature has so many benefits — physical, mental and environmental — and provides a much-needed release from everyday routines.

A Healthier Being

Most outdoor hobbies include some sort of physical movement. So it should come as no surprise that outdoor activities greatly improve physical health. In fact, a study conducted by the University of Essex suggests that being out in nature and the color green makes exercise feel easier. Specific outdoor hobbies such as hiking, mountain biking etc. can even contribute to weight loss just by virtue of being at a high altitude, thanks to the fact that higher altitudes increase one’s metabolism. Pair that with the fact that being outside increases vitamin D absorption, and it’s hard to argue with the fact that being outdoors can do wonders for your body!

Apart from physical health, being outdoors is proven to improve your mental well being too. Numerous studies have shown the links between being in nature and reduced negative emotions, confirming the positive correlation between exercising outside and a reduction of psychological stress. Those who spend a lot more time outdoors sleep better, and consequently their minds are more alert and productive. The benefits of outdoor fitness are so many, that nowadays a regimented fitness plan is included in most types of recovery therapy. I can personally attest to the fact that being out in nature is one of the best ways to relieve stress, and feel more emotionally and creatively centered.

Environmental Awareness

The lack of environmental awareness in today’s world in absolutely shocking. With realities like climate change and global warming altering our ecosystems, being environmentally conscious has never been more important. The problem lies with the average person’s lack of knowledge in terms of everyday sustainability. In that sense, being outdoors allows us to truly commune with our environment, indirectly educating us about the need to protect it. Before I started scuba diving, I never thought twice about the fish I was eating in my daily diet – where it came from, how it was fished, which communities were harmed in its distribution process. Now, I make it a point to buy fish that has been sustainably fished, so as to reduce my impact on our very fragile ocean ecosystem. Awareness as a result of experience is the best kind, and being able to truly experience the wonders of nature allows us to feel deeply for it, leading us to honestly try and respect our surroundings as opposed to arbitrarily doing so.

Hopefully, you’re now thoroughly convinced that being outdoors has major advantages. If you’re at a loose end on what outdoor and environmental hobbies you could potentially pursue, I’ve listed five that I find really interesting, and could cater to people of all different ages.

Scuba Diving

Yes, I may be a little biased since I’m a divemaster — but if you experience scuba diving for yourself you’ll know why! 70% of our earth is covered in water, so after a little bit of training, scuba diving is a very viable hobby in most places in the world. What’s more, it keeps you immensely fit. The ocean remains relatively unexplored as compared to land, and due to its constant dynamism, each dive is always a new and thrilling experience. Being underwater lets you really feel like one with nature, discover the wonders of the big blue, and feel completely disconnected in a space of silence and beauty like never before.

Metal Detecting

Have you ever dreamed of being a treasure hunter? Metal detecting is one of those hobbies that imbibes you with a sense of adventure, and will leave you feeling super satisfied — especially if you detect something! It’s a great way to really get to know your surroundings, and from an environmental point, you will get to learn a lot of about the topography in your area and what lies beneath the surface. Another upside of metal detecting is that it is suitable for seniors and young kids. Often, age plays an important role in choosing whether or not to engage in adventure activities. Metal detecting is relatively stress-free, and keeps your body active without taking a heavy toll on it.

Bird Watching and Photography

Birds, with their ability to fly, are absolutely fascinating creatures. One of the misconceptions about birdwatching is that you have to travel really far into the wild to partake in it, however, bird watching in itself can take place in even mildly forested areas. Bird watching is a great hobby for kids, as it stimulates their mind and heightens their senses. Back in the day, identifying birds was often a rather difficult task, involving fervent note taking and recording. Nowadays, thanks to comprehensive 4G coverage, this isn’t the case. The Merlin Bird ID app developed by Cornell (with an extensive database) is a great tool to quickly identify birds through easy filters such as size, color and location, ultimately even allowing you to listen to specific bird calls and learn fun facts. Depending upon your data coverage, you can simply upload a picture of the spotted bird, and the app will relay data to you instantly! If your signal strength isn’t that good, you can always use the “save for later” option too. Being very user friendly, this is the perfect way to get your kids excited about birdwatching, even if you start in your own backyard.

Mountain biking

If you’re looking for a particularly challenging outdoor hobby, then consider mountain biking. Guaranteed to keep you in shape, mountain biking has a really high adventure factor. Mountain biking is known for its effects on increasing metabolism, toning legs and core muscles, and keeping your mind alert at all times. It requires dedication and a commitment to staying fit, and in return you will get to traverse some of the world’s most splendid terrain, from beautiful peaks to untouched mountain lakes. Just remember to wear a helmet, especially when starting out!

Horseback riding

If you live in an area that allows it, horseback riding can be extremely rewarding. Horseback riding is a hobby that promotes compassion towards animals, patience and awareness, and even physical well being. It can be wonderfully freeing to ride a horse out on green pastures, providing a sense of tranquility and serenity. In fact, it has been proven that being around horses is very calming and rejuvenating, so much so that equine therapy is often used to treat medical issues such as ADD, trauma and more.

If none of these are up your alley, then there are a ton of other outdoor hobbies you could choose to pursue. The world is an enormous place, with countless natural wonders that we should strive to conserve — so get out there and start exploring — you won’t regret it!

About the author: Akshata has a passion for traveling and exploring the world. She loves to write, is interested in entrepreneurship and sustainability. Image: gkmediadesign

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