Abstract: Studying the Psychological and Physical Benefits of Outdoor Sports and Recreation

Both physical and mental health are a growing problem in the United States. With obesity and depression levels on the rise, it is essential for Americans to assess their current ways of life, and to make immediate (and often quite simple) changes. I have personally found that my mood on any given day is directly correlated with how much time I have spent outside, or how much time I have spent exercising my body. I want to find out if this is true for others.

I aim to qualitatively illustrate the physical, mental, and health benefits of stimulating the mind and body through outdoor exercise. I will be living and working in Park City, Utah this summer, and I plan to do a series of social profiles on the people I meet through my work. I want to explore the reasons people have taken the time from their daily lives to engage in outdoor activity, and if they feel that these sorts of activities are “therapeutic,” or are ways to improve overall quality of life (mental, emotional, or physical). Additionally, I want to interview people who perhaps don’t have the time or energy to engage in these activities. I want to see how their lives, moods, actions, physical/mental health measures up to those of others I meet. I’m interested in the types of people who seek activity and adventure as an outlet from their own versions of normality, and I am passionate about empowering and/or inspiring those who don’t get outside or who don’t exercise as much to do so. I hope to show qualitatively through my results that outdoor recreation is widely beneficial for a large number of people.



  1. Hey!

    This project sounds really awesome and holds critical importance in the typical American lifestyle of today where outdoor activity is often sacrificed in favor of screen based entertainment. I find that my mood correlates with my time spent outside in the same way you described and this makes me wonder about the correlation between rising depression and obesity rates and rising use of videogames, etc. by children today.
    This topic is particularly relevant to me because I spent this past summer as a camp counselor at an outdoor adventure camp in the mountains of North Carolina. It was interesting to see the differences from camper to camper in how they handled being “unplugged”, off their phones and outside all day every day for a week. Some of the older campers struggled with the atmosphere of “being apart” and the high level of outdoor physical activity. My time at camp, in similar ways to your experience this summer I’m sure, has made clear the importance of being outdoors and active often, especially for children.

    Excited to hear about the rest of your research!