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When it comes to healthy, active living many of our chosen physical activities take place in the great outdoors. Enjoying the landscapes and natural environments around us while we are active can add to our sense of well-being.

This article offers a wide range of suggestions and ideas about “connecting” with the environment while being physically active.

For example, by spending less time in vehicles and more time walking, cycling or using public transit, we can significantly reduce our individual impact on the environment.

Here are some other suggestions for physical activities that can be enjoyed outdoors and that may minimize impacts on the environment:

  • Walk or bike to work. This usually involves more time and planning than driving does, but the exercise will do you good and your actions will reduce vehicle emissions. Plus, the regular exercise will invigorate you before work and help to clear your mind on the way home from work. Start by walking or cycling to work once a week, then more often as you build up your endurance.
  • When you wash your car in warmer months, opt for the traditional bucket-and-sponge approach. This can use up to eight times less water than a using a hose. Your car comes out just as beautiful, and it’s a good, active workout for you.
  • Consume less energy by drying your clothes on a line or a drying rack instead of in the dryer. Hanging clothes on the line is good exercise, especially for your arms and shoulders.
  • Walk to your local farmers’ market. It’s good for your health and supports food vendors and local businesses at the market. Buying locally grown produce helps the environment because local farmers don’t have to ship their produce as far.
  • Become a gardener. Growing your own food keeps you physically active in the summer months and helps to provide you and your family with low-cost, nutritious meals. The food you grow does not have to be shipped, reducing vehicle emissions and traffic. Plus, every time you’re out in the garden you can enjoy Mother Nature!
  • Go berry-picking in the summer; it’s a great way to get moving. There are lots of great “U-pick” farms and wild berry patches where you can pick delicious wild berries for free.
  • Collect water in rain barrels. You can use this water on your garden and lawn. Rainwater helps you use less water from your tap, and hauling the water helps you increase your strength.

Another way to build active and environmentally-friendly habits into your lifestyle is to do simple physical labour more often, such as routine chores, throughout all seasons.

For example:

  • During the summer, dig out weeds instead of killing them with herbicides. Mow your lawn with a manual push mower, saving on electricity or gas and reducing noise pollution in your neighbourhood.
  • In autumn, use a rake instead of a leaf blower to clean up leaves.
  • In winter, clear snow and ice with a shovel and scraper, instead of a snow blower and chemical ice melter.

These methods are all easier on the environment and are simple ways to increase your level of physical activity and fitness.

Physical Activity in the Great Outdoors

Whether we live in urban or rural areas, it’s human nature to seek out time in the natural environment. In fact, most people tend to be more physically active when they are outdoors.

Whatever your preferred outdoor activities are, keep in mind that your presence and actions can affect the environment in a variety of ways. Here are a few examples of things you can do to lessen your impact:

  • When hiking, walking or running, stick to the path. By sticking to the path you prevent soil erosion and avoid harming the plants and trees that surround the trail.
  • For mountain bike enthusiasts, other cyclists and users of all-terrain vehicles, it’s important to be respectful of the environment on every outing. Travel only on designated trails and follow safety and environmental rules and “best practices.”  
  • You may have heard of the term “leave no trace.” It’s a philosophy for enjoying nature, and the idea is that you should leave everything as you found it. What you carry in, carry out. Bring a sealable container to store your trash in, so you can bring it back with you.
  • It’s important to drink water when you’re active, but a lot of waste can be generated from disposable water bottles. Invest in a reusable water bottle for your activities rather than a disposable one.

Take the Family Outdoors

We can increase our appreciation for the environment by enjoying it more often with friends and family. Taking part in physical activities of all kinds can make your time in the outdoors even more enjoyable. Here are some family-oriented ideas:

  • plan frequent family day trips, weekend trips and/or longer vacations in the outdoors, such as day hikes and camping excursions
  • encourage your children to take part in outdoor education courses at school
  • make it a family project to discover the trails and parks in your area, one at a time, and do repeat visits to your favourites
  • take part in environmental clean-up programs that involve physical activity, such as those organized by your local community league, municipality or other organizations

When you combine environmentally-friendly approaches with active living, the benefits are amazing. You’ll feel good about yourself through increased physical activity, your enjoyment of the outdoors will be magnified and you can feel like you are doing your part to protect the environment. Nice going!

Learn More

Alberta Bicycle Association
Information on clubs across the province

CAN-BIKE Program
Learn more about cycling for fun and commuting from the Canadian Cycling Association’s CAN-BIKE program.

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), Northern Alberta Chapter
An organization concerned about the maintenance of biodiversity and wilderness in Alberta.

Leave No Trace Program
An international program that helps outdoor enthusiasts reduce their environmental impact when they’re enjoying the great outdoors.

The Urban Farmer
This small business based in Edmonton gives great advice about growing plants in the Alberta climate, gardening in an urban setting, and more.

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