Thunder Bay’s 30×30 Nature Challenge
by Warren Stevenson
After a long winter, spring is finally in the air! It’s a great time to get outdoors and enjoy the environment. Research has shown that spending more time outside makes us happier, reduces our stress and improves our health. That’s why Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) challenges everyone to join the David Suzuki Foundation’s 30×30 Nature Challenge to enjoy their outdoor environment for 30 minutes each day, for 30 days through the month of May.
The Harvard Health Letter states that spending time in nature provides five distinct benefits:
- Increased vitamin D levels, which help to fight osteoporosis, cancer, depression and heart disease
- Increased physical activity as getting outside means less time in front of a television and computer
- Increased happiness because natural sunlight elevates the mood
- Improved concentration – children with ADHD have better focus after being outdoors and adults report feeling rejuvenated and stimulated
- Faster healing – studies have shown that patients recovering from spinal surgery experienced less pain and stress when exposed to sunlight
Although being active outdoors is a bonus to this challenge, it is not necessary because the goal of the challenge is to take time and notice the non-human life surrounding us. This means it can be as simple as sitting down and relaxing in your backyard or as involved as canoeing down a local river. That being said, spending time outside may not be the same as spending time in nature; streets and sidewalks can be busy and often cause a lot of stress. So, to truly enjoy nature, find some green space, put down your electronic device and enjoy the nature around you. Use your senses to identify birds, squirrels, bees and other wildlife. Listen to the wind sweeping across the grass or through the trees, the waves rolling onto the beach, or to the flow of water in a stream or river. Think about how the grass feels between your toes, what it’s like to create life in a garden, or how no two clouds look the same.
Northwestern Ontario is an ideal environment for the 30×30 Nature Challenge and offers many opportunities to explore the outdoors. Activities include walking along the lakefront at Prince Arthur’s Landing, stargazing in a rural area (this limits light pollution), playing Disc Golf at Boulevard Park, visiting Kakabeka Falls, gardening in your backyard, enjoying some quality time at the camp, braving Canada’s longest suspension bridge at Eagle Canyon, exploring the trails at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, taking up an outdoor sport like tennis, golf or horseback riding, eating dinner on a patio, trying to strike it rich at the Amethyst Mine Panorama, fishing some of the local hotspots, cycling along some of the bike trails, canoeing along a nearby river, reliving the past at Fort William Historical Park, waking up early to watch the sunrise, and so many more.
This May, take the pledge to participate in the 30×30 Nature Challenge at 30×30.davidsuzuki.org and realize the health benefits just 30 minutes a day with nature can provide. See you outside!