What is the 1000 hours outdoors challenge? Why Parents Love It

Parents explain why they love the 1,000 Hours Outside Challenge.  (Photo: Ginny Yurich)

The five children of 1000 Hours Challenge founder Ginny Yurich show off an enlarged version of an hourly fresh air tracker available on the movement’s website. (Photo: Ginny Yurich)

Children between the ages of 8 and 18 spend an average of 7.5 hours in front of a screen – every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is probably not the most shocking statistic, since, between video games, TikTok and the latest streaming series, there is a plot do in front of a screen. But what if you replace a good chunk of those hours with time spent outdoors, staring at trees, the sky, or even the ground? For some parents, the answer is simple: all good things.

Join the 1000 Hours Outside movement. Ginny Yurich, a Michigan-based mother of five, started the blog of the same name in 2013, followed by related books and the popular podcast, inspiring parents everywhere to hang out with their kids — and track their hours with a goal of reaching 1,000. And by 2021, said Yurich Today, more than one million children had participated in the challenge. Today, there are over 607,000 #1000HoursOutside posts on Instagram.

Before starting his blog, Yurich struggled to raise his young children. She was constantly switching them from one activity to another and was frustrated with the shortness of the time periods. Then a friend read the writings of British educator Charlotte Mason, who encourages children to play outdoors, and asked Yurich if she wanted to try spending time outdoors with their two children at the park. While Yurich initially had low expectations, she was shocked at how “refreshed” she felt afterwards. She kept it.

“I started noticing that our kids were thriving,” Yurich told Yahoo Life. “They slept better, they ate better. They fell less ill. They were trying new kinds of things on the outside, new kinds of movements. And over the past 10 to 12 years, I’ve come across loads and loads of research on how simple outdoor play helps children in all facets of their development. It helps their cognition, it helps their physical abilities, it helps them emotionally, it helps them with their social skills – and it does a lot for parents too.

Why go out?

Much has been written about why getting outdoors is so important for children, including how it helps them synthesize vitamin D from the sun, which is important for building a healthy immune system. . A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health indicates that children aged 3 to 12 who spend more time outdoors are less sedentary, which means they are more likely to reach the 60 minutes of CDC moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity. day for optimal health.

US Forest Service scientist Michelle Kondo told Yahoo Life that the mental health benefits of outdoor play are perhaps the most impressive.

“Being outdoors can help improve our mood, it can reduce our stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression,” she says. “Time spent outdoors can reduce loneliness. Being outside can also improve our brain function. It helps us to concentrate and pay attention.

A study published in Science Advances in 2019 found that there is a link between nature experiences and psychological well-being, as well as a reduction in risk factors for certain types of mental health problems, such as ADHD and anxiety disorders, which the American Psychological Association (APA) echoed in a 2020 review on mood and the cognitive benefits of nature.

There is also evidence that unstructured social play can be extremely beneficial for children. Many parents may think that giving their children lots of organized activities is ideal, but allowing them to have free time not dominated by organized activities, forcing them to find their own enjoyment, can help them develop their creativity, according to APA research.

What parents say

Challengers, who can track their progress through a chart on Yurich’s site, don’t need hard evidence to know going out is a good idea: the proof is in how their families feel after got plenty of fresh air. , sun and nature.

“We spend a lot of days in parks and walking trails,” North Carolina mom Makenzie Alaniz tells Yahoo Life of her two children, ages 5 and 2. and fun,” and is confident that her family will hit the 1,000 hour mark, as they are already at 200 hours. “As soon as the weather warms up, we will be at the beach. We also have a horse, so taking care of her and riding takes quite a bit of time… If it’s over 40 degrees, then we’ve got at least an hour or two of play time!

Natalie Waddell, a Texas mom of two, ages 2 and 4, also loves the challenge. She decided to board at the end of 2022, after noticing that her children were often getting sick and spending too much time in front of the screen. They keep it simple by playing in front of their house almost every day.

“When I think about my weekend plans, I try to find something that would also double for hours outdoors,” she says. “If the weather is bad, we try to get by, and if it doesn’t work out, we take a short walk and make up the hours another day. Texas has pretty crazy weather and we ride with it. For example, February’s goal was one hour a day and most days we did two hours or 20 minutes, but we still hit our goal.

Since the challenge began, she notes, her children haven’t gotten sick – which was previously rare in January and February.

Plus, she says, “My kids fall asleep much faster and sleep better throughout the night.”

Social media influencer Carly Riordan also sees the practicality of spending more time outdoors, telling Yahoo Life the fresh air has been “incredible” for her family’s overall mood.

Then there are practical benefits.

“We also benefited from longer naps and a cleaner home,” she says. “[There’s] much more time hanging out with friends. It’s easier to meet in a park than to feel obligated to invite a family over. No need to clean before or after!

Most of the time, Riordan says, she likes not “having to plan activities” to keep her toddler entertained.

And, he says, “he’s happy on the outside with minimal effort or guidance from me.”

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