The term Recreation, which came from the word Recreate means to create a new. Outdoor recreationist defined recreations as recreating something new in people which they have lost while getting so indulged in their work. But the question arises, to re-create what? Therefore, what has been lost during the non leisure time that needs to be recreated during the leisure time? In line with that, Kelly, (1996) states that “Recreation stems from the Latin recreatio, which refers to restoration or recovery. The term implies the re-creation of energy or the restoration of ability to function. Recreation contains the concept of restoration of wholeness of mind, spirit, and body. It presupposes some other activity that depletes, tires, or deteriorates that wholeness”(p. 25). In other words, people need to move from their working environment and do some kind of activities which can fill that wholeness whining them. Hence, this can only be achieved through outdoor recreation activities.
Outdoor recreation, is any leisure time activity which is being conducted outdoor where individuals engages themselves either physically or mentally from a range of choices of activities for their personal satisfaction and enjoyment. This wide range of activities can be subdivided into two categories which are namely, “resource based” and “user-oriented” recreation. The resource based recreation is known to be conducted in the natural surrounding that cannot be easily duplicated by man and on the contrary, user-oriented recreation can be provided anywhere such as theme parks.
Types of outdoor activity
There are a wide variety of outdoor activities which can be categorized into land based activity or water based activity. Some of the well known activities are listed below;
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Motorized – OHV Riding
Visiting Archeological and Historic Sites
Canoeing/kayaking refers to the use of one or more single or dual blades, paddles, to propel a canoe or kayak forward with only human muscle power. For planning purposes canoeing/kayaking also represents many different forms of paddling activities, such as rafting or whitewater rafting. A majority of the use is facilitated through canoe/kayak launches and designated paddling trails, although such facilities are not absolutely required.
Freshwater and saltwater boating is the leisure activity of traveling by boat, or the recreational use of a boat focused on travel itself. Boats vary greatly, from powerboats to sailboats or humanâ€powered vessels. Although there are many different forms of boating, their basic similarly is the requirement of a water body as their principal supporting resource. To provide access to a body of water, boat ramp facilities and marina facilities are commonly developed by outdoor recreation providers.
Freshwater swimming is an outdoor recreation type embracing all of the various activities carried on in fresh water in which the participant is the sole means of locomotion. Specialized variations of swimming include diving, skin diving, and SCUBA diving. Resources and facilities commonly found at outdoor recreation areas that provide freshwater swimming include beach areas, docks and swimming and diving platforms.
Outdoor and adventure activities benefits have been analysed and portrayed by using a variety of models/framework in the past. As presented in the work of Stiehl and Parker (2007), these model and framework have been summarized in table 1-4.
Table 1 Benefits of Outdoor Adventure (Darst & Armstrong, 1980)
New experience – adds a kick to participantsâ€Ÿ lives, allows them to experience something
High-risk experience – facing perceived danger may help participants overcome fears, gain self-confidence, and enhance their ability to cope
Escape – offers release form the tensions and complexities of modern life
Success – allows participants to achieve a highly personal senses of accomplishment
Knowledge – participants learn more about themselves and the environment
Physical fitness – physical activity can help burn calories and increase strength, stamina, and flexibility
Minimal financial investment – provides interesting and pleasant activities at a reasonable cost
Socializing – provides a chance to meet others who have similar interests
Unity – promotes cohesiveness and doing things together without the distractions of everyday life
Cooperation and trust – promotes better relationships through cooperation, appreciation of others, compassion and respect
Nature and outdoors – promotes aesthetics appreciation for nature and concern for vanishing wild places
Table 2 Benefits of Outdoor Adventure (Ewert, 1989)
Benefits on a personal (versus group) basis: Self concept (enhanced or strengthened view), self-efficacy (self-confidence), self-actualisation (well-being, improved self-expression, feelings of psychological health)
Compassion, cooperation, respect for others, communication
Improved academic abilities, awareness of nature and the environment, problem solving, outdoor skills, values clarification
Strength, co-ordination, balance, cardiovascular endurance
Table 3 Goals and Benefits of Outdoor Adventure (Webb, 1999)
Enjoyment, relaxation, entertainment, excitement, catharsis, self-expression
Goal setting, decision making, problem solving, responsibility, physical development, nature awareness, communication, leadership
Independence, interdependence, self-efficacy, willingness to take risks, tolerance, respect, trust, compassion
Table 4 Benefits of Camping (American Camp Association, 2005)
To the participant: e.g. self-esteem, determination, dependability, ambition, independence
Beyond the individual: group bonding, cooperation, conflict resolution, appreciation of differences, leadership, community, connected to others
Physical and thinking skills
Activity skills, technical skills; physiological benefits of physical activity Thinking skills: knowledge of safety measures, planning, problem solving, environmental awareness
Positive values and spirituality
Acquiring and strengthening virtue; selflessness, compassion, keeping commitments, fulfilling obligations, self-discipline, honesty â€¦ Connection to earth, others and even a higher power
Health benefits of outdoor recreation
Generally, outdoor recreation is known to improve people`s health and this can be achieved by doing regular physical activities. Similarly outdoor recreation contribution to health is often considered in the context of “Wellness”. According to the World Health Organisation (2003), health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. This definition shifts from a strict medical model of health to a simple concept of well-being. Hence, the Alberta Centre for Well Being (1989) found that “the concept of well-being or optimal health involves a delicate balance among physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual and social health”. In the same way, outdoor recreation covers all those aspects of health and also helps in not only enhancing the physical health but also the emotional well being of humans.
During a research and promotional campaign, Carney (2001) confirmed the fact that physically inactive people have greater risk of having numerous health problems like coronary heart disease and some form of cancer rather than smoking, having a poor diet or drinking. Hence people can improve their health and those particularly in relation of coronary heart disease through regular exercise and activities like walking and cycling which are relatively inexpensive activities and which does not require any special skills to perform and it can also easily fit in people`s the daily routine. Hence in regards to that, The Health Education Board of Scotland has been promoting and encouraging walking through it`s campaign named “walk about a bit”.
General health benefits of Outdoor Activity
There is a wide range of outdoor activity; for example, Bird Watching may involve walking along with interpreting sounds and visual clues as well as meeting and socialising with other fellow Birdwatchers which contributes to wellness. Similarly, walking itself is known to be the most common outdoor activity and brisk walking for whether one hour per day or three hours a week helps to lower the risk of heart diseases by 30 to 40 percent in women (AARP 2008, citing the 20-Year Nurses’ Health Study). Therefore, walking have many health benefits specially for older adults which are:
controlling blood pressure;
decreasing risk of heart attack;
boosting “good” cholesterol;
lowering risk of stroke;
reducing risk of breast cancer and Type 2 diabetes;
avoiding need for gallstone surgery;
protecting against hip fracture;
preventing depression, colon cancer, constipation, osteoporosis, and impotence;
lowering stress levels;
relieving arthritis and back pain;
strengthening muscles, bones, and joints;
improving sleep; and
elevating overall mood and sense of well-being.
Thus, outdoor activities that include walking help to maintain a good health and wellness. In addition, many researchers (Driver and Knopf 1976; Driver and Cooksey 1977; Driver 1985; Godbey et al. 1992; Tinsley et al. 2003; Kaczynski and Henderson 2007) have found beneficial effects of outdoor recreation on two problems in particular which are stress and obesity.
Stress and outdoor activity
According to Godbey and Blazey (1983), strolling in parks is seen as beneficial to older visitors since it helps in stress reduction and More and Payne (1978), also added that it helps to decrease the level of anxiety, sadness and negative mood by spending time in parks. Hence, the longer people stay in parks, the less stressed they feel (Hull and Michael 1995).
The American Institute of Stress (2008) found that 43 percent of adults in U.S suffer from acute or chronic stress. Moreover stress also lead to heart attack, blood pressure and is also linked with obesity (Bell et al. 1998; Brand et al. 2000). Hence, numerous studies have shown that when being in the natural surroundings, people tend to recover quickly and have fever illness (Frumkin 2001; Moore 1981; Ulrich 1984; Parsons et al.1998). therefore performing an activity within the natural environment have a rejuvenating effect over the peoples health while they are in contact with wilderness area (Hartig et al. 1991; Kaplan 1984), community parks (Canin 1991; Cimprich 1993), prairies (Miles et al. 1998).
Obesity and outdoor activity
Obesity is seen as an epidemic and it is closely linked and contributes to increased risk of disease such as hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease, respiratory disease and many others. Although there are multiple causes of obesity and it is not completely understood by researchers, sedentary that is insufficient physical activity is known as one of the factors causing obesity.
Between 1991 and 2001 obesity in United States have been steadily studied and it was found that obesity rates have increased to 75 percent among adults and that only 25 percent are engaged in doing recommended activities. Figure 1 below shows more detailed information about obesity rates in California.
Figure 1: The Growth of Obesity in California: “Percentage of California’s Population”
Source: CDC, 2002a
Obesity also affects a large number of children (Milnes, 2008). Children, who are overweight at their younger age, tend to become overweight adults later and this contributes to low self esteem and alienation (Healthlink, Medical College of Wisconsin, January 14, 2009). Furthermore, studies carried out on preschool children showed that being outdoor plays a major role in performing physical activities like playing games with friends (Sallis et al. 2000). Likewise, outdoor temperatures whether hot or cold act as a stimulus and prompt the body to burn more calories than rather being in heated and air conditioned environment.
Economic benefits of outdoor recreation
According to the research of Mackay (n.d.), outdoor recreation is beneficial to the Scottish economy. Due to the fact that throughout years, to perform any particular activity, people have to move and travel to the specific site, need to spend money on equipment, food and accommodation and this help to bring income in rural areas of Scotland which gives way to new businesses and sustain the economies of these areas. Moreover, according to the survey carried out in 1998 in Scotland, it estimates that 137 million day visit were made to the coast and countryside and on average, £6.50 were spent by each person’s on each visit (National Centre for Social Research 1998). A more detailed survey carried out in 2000 showed that people spent more than £900 million while participating in walking and other outdoor activities in the countryside and at the coast. Hence, the expenditures were on average people spend £6.20 per party, £1.55 was on fuel and £3.07 was on food and drinks (NOF System Three Scotland 2000).
To explore the economic impact of a multi-use rail trail in Victoria, Australia Beeton (2006) surveyed 140 groups, during Easter 2006, total accounting for 625 people. The length of journey was from 0.5 days to 30 days. The average expenditure per person per day was at about $258, $147 on food and beverage; of which $27 was accommodation; $47 on transport; $10 on cycling and $27 on other. The average economic contribution per person was $482.94(after the application of multipliers).
The social benefits of outdoor recreation
Outdoor recreation is often regarded as having positive impacts on the society. The physical benefits of outdoor recreation on health have been well documented by researchers but not much emphasis is made on the social benefits linked with these activities. Some of the social benefits of recreation are known as reduced crime rate, promotes stewardship, encourage voluntarism and strengthen the communities. According to the Californian mayors, they believe that parks and recreation facilities helps to strengthen and bring communities together (DPR, 2002). Similarly, 77 percent of Los Angeles citizens were surveyed after the riots of 1993 and they listed that improved parks and recreation facilities are “important” or “Absolutely critical” to the restoration of their community (TPL, 1994).
Participating in recreation activities helps to promote voluntarism. Hence, adults who frequently use parks and recreation facilities and who participate in recreation programs are generally the one who volunteered rather the one who does not use these services (Busser and Norwalk, 2001). Moreover, following a survey, 95 percent of Americans agreed that outdoor recreations help to generate appreciation for the nature and surrounding (ARC, 2000).
Faulks et al (2007, p. 11) found that research conducted on the Central Otago Rail Trail in New Zealand showed that the range of social benefits to the community due to the rail trail, both as a resource and as a place of physical activity, included:
Mental and physical well-being for participants;
Education benefits regarding an understanding about working on a railroad;
Bringing families together;
Meeting like-minded people;
Introducing new people into the community; and
Generating a sense of pride and a heightened community identity.
There has been a wide range of outdoor programs that have been conducted within educational contexts in recent research which include the Duke of Edinburgh style programs (Bailey, 2004), that is Extended Stay Outdoor Education Programs (ESOEPâ€Ÿs) (Gray, 1997; McLeod & Allen-Craig, 2007), cross-curriculum programs (Eglington & Broderick, 2008; Haddock, 2007a), environmental education centres (Ballantyne & Packer, 2007) as well as several traditional outdoor education programs (Hales, 2006; Haskell, 2000; Purdie, Neill, & Richards, 2002).
Moreover, from such diverse programs, the results reported were also wide-ranging. Hence, by participating in the Duke of Edinburgh program, it showed improved relationships among the participants and also problem solving skills and self confidence had been enhanced which have resulted in gain in academic achievement due to involvement in outdoor education programs (Haddock, 2007a, 2007b). in addition through these programs, students have been able to learn and apply eight dimension which are:
Active initiative; and
“On average, outdoor education programs appear to have a small to moderate effect on participants’ perceptions of their own qualities and capabilitiesâ€¦(roughly equivalent to â€¦ other types of self-concept change programs). These results are a positive endorsement of outdoor education as a legitimate and effective educational training method… Outdoor education definitely has something to offer”. (Neill and Richards, 1998, p7)
Sport, recreation and tourism
Understanding the motivations and expectations of participants is essential when trying to provide outdoor programs. Kiewa (2001) carried out a qualitative study using in-depth interviews and diary entries of rock-climbers. She analysed the responses of 14 females and 17 males over a 12-month period, attempting to develop an understanding of the role of gender and motivations and reasons in practicing these sports. The result showed that outdoor adventure programs are constructed with the view that “both men and women will benefit from programmes designed to support skills associated with the opposite genderâ€Ÿ (Kiewa, 2001, p.11).
Furthermore, in seeking to understand the needs, expectations motivations and of participants, another survey was carried out on a different adventure sport which was rafting trip near Melbourne. The research showed that there were significant differences in the motivations and needs of the participants. While the newer participant tend to focus more on the challenges of the activity, the frequent and experienced ones focus more on the ancillary benefits like spending time with friends and family, resting and relaxing in outdoor environment (Fluker & Turner, 2000).
In addition, in a less challenging context, two surveys were carried out on visitors to Mt Kosciuszko where more than 2,000 people may visit the summit during peak periods on any one-day. The earlier survey was conducted during Easter 2005 and had 494 participants while the other one was conducted over summer 2005/6 and had 2,492 responses (2007b; 2007c). In each case, visitors both expected and experienced wilderness, even though there are several structures to protect the environment. The main factor that motivates the participants to visit Mt Kosciuszko, was the scenic beauty and nature then followed by enjoying the outdoors and climbing. For more than 50% of respondents, encountering and experiencing wilderness was very important to them. Although, due to high level visitation subsequent track management work, visitors still had high satisfaction level just by participating and experiencing the nature of the area
Factors motivating outdoor participation
A growing number of research supports the proposition that individuals who live in activity friendly environments are more likely to be physically active during their leisure time (Sallis et al. 2000; Humpel et al. 2002; Killingsworth 2003; Owen et al. 2004). Active Living Research summarizes the important facts of such research which are: the proximity, supply, safety and design of recreational spaces. Other well known factor influencing participation is the availability of leisure time. The following subsections consider these variables.
On average, Americans have 35 to 40 hours of free time per week (Robinson and Godbey 1999; BLS 2006). However, the majority of this time comes in small portions during weekdays, rather than in big blocks on weekends. Hence, watching TV takes up about half of all free time (Table 5) and adding to this, 27 hours per month goes on Internet use for both work and leisure (Nielsen and Hansen 2007). By contrast, sports, exercise and outdoor recreation account for only about 8.5 hours per month. Therefore, outdoor recreation, then, is comparatively rare. Moreover, if travelling is considered as an “indoor” activity, most Americans spend 95 percent of their time indoors (Robinson and Godbey 1999).
Table 5: Americans’ Leisure Time, 2006
Average minutes per day
156 (2.6 hours)
Other leisure activities
Playing games, using computer for leisure
Sports, exercise, recreation
308 (5.1 hours)
Note: Data include persons ages 15 and older. Data include all days of the week and are annual averages. Source:
American Time Use Survey, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006.
Furthermore, while being on vacation, people spend more time outdoors, like walk more, and watching TV less (Robinson and Godbey 1999). Vacations then alleviate perceived job stress and burnout (Westman and Etzion 2001). In short, vacationing may be good for one’s health (Gump and Matthews 2000).
Proximity to Outdoor Spaces
Proximity to outdoor recreation is a critical variable in explaining participation rates. Creating and improving the recreational facilities and spaces can spark a 25 percent increase in those who exercise at least three times per week (CDC 2002). Hence, the closer people live to a bikeway, the more likely they are to use it (Troped et al. 2001). Moreover, Kaczynski and Henderson (2007) summarize the facts founds concerning the role of park proximity in physical activity. In addition, eight of 13 articles indicated positive associations between physical activity and park proximity. For example, a survey conducted on U.S. adults showed that perceived access to parks and recreational facilities were related to increased physical activity (Brownson et al. 2001). Similarly, adults in New York City, Baltimore, and North Carolina, were 28 percent more likely to engaged in recreation activities if the parks and recreation facilities was within five miles of their home. Likewise, having facilities within one mile encouraged higher levels of physical activity among African Americans and Hispanics (Diez-Roux et al. 2007).
Safety of Parks
Powell et al. (2003) reported that four studies which were carried out found no significant relation between safety aspect and walking in one’s neighborhood, but the three other studies found such a relation. One of the latter indicated that recommended activity levels were met by 43 percent of peoples who had safe places to walk within 10 minutes of home and on the contrary only 27 percent of those without safe places (Powell et al. 2003).
An onsite survey in a large metropolitan park revealed that among older adults, female park visitors had significantly more fear of crime than did males (Raymore and Scott 1998). Fear of crime was found to be an important factor, and former crime victims (9 percent of all those surveyed) were particularly fearful. Respondents reported that traveling to and from the park were more worrisome than being in the park itself.
Supply of Outdoor Spaces
The number parks and playgrounds in a community are related positively to physical activity levels. For instance, a study of some 500 adults from 56 neighborhoods in Oregon, Portland, found that both the area of green or open space and the number of recreation facilities were related to high levels of physical activity (Li et al. 2005).
Although the number parks and green spaces in a community positively influence on physical activity, researchers cannot say that large parks are no more likely to be associated with higher levels of physical activity than smaller parks. For example, a study of four neighborhoods in Ontario found no such relationship between the size of parks and their use for physical activity (Kaczynski et al. 2008).
The provision of facilities
The benefits of engaging in physical activities, particularly outdoor activities, are dependent on the type of infrastructure provided to participant. According to Aldous (2006), he noted that in the context of leisure planning, providing adequate infrastructure and green spaces in urban areas was important in creating and broadening appreciation for the nature and environment. Similarly, Crilley (2007) studied the theme of infrastructure provision to understand the important attributes of trails. Hence, it resulted in the five top trail attributes were: easily accessible; the trail should be safe; well-maintained surface, have adequate signage along the trail and that the trail should be well maintained.
Park and Playground Design and Features
Parks with soccer fields, courts, basketball courts, volleyball courts, tennis and racquetball and playgrounds were associated from moderate to vigorous levels activity (Floyd et al. 2008).
In another study, some researchers have examined 28 features of ball fields, bike paths, and so forth in 33 parks they found that parks with several features were more likely to be used for physical activity rather than parks with fewer features. Moreover, according to Kaczynski et al. (2008) parks with paved trails, for instance, were 26 times more likely to be used for physical activity than parks without paved trails. A study of four park types (neighborhood park, waterfront park, city park, “extreme” park) showed that levels of moderate or vigorous activity were highest in the areas having courts, sports fields, playgrounds, and paths, whereas sedentary activity was observed in open green spaces (Shores and West 2008).