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Research that Supports Recreation

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Health Benefits of Non-Motorized Outdoor Recreation

Key Message

There is strong evidence indicating that outdoor recreation as well as simply being present in a natural setting improve physical health.


Kux, Stephen and Wolfgang Haide. (2014). Health Benefits of Non-Motorized Outdoor Recreation: A Summary of Published Findings. Burnaby, BC: School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University.


The purpose of this review is to summarize existing research into the health benefits associated with non-motorized outdoor recreation activities. In particular, this review is focused on the following research questions:

  1. What specific outdoor recreation activities have been correlated with improved physical health?
  2. What specific benefits to physical health have been observed in correlation with participation in non-motorized outdoor recreation activities?
  3. Which health benefits are linked to which activities?
  4. What benefits to health are associated with time spent in natural environments versus urban environments?


Three activities stand out with respect to experimental findings: Hiking, rock climbing, and alpine skiing. Hiking has been linked to various benefits such as reduction in the risk of coronary artery disease, improved heart function, accumulation of lean body mass, improvements in the perceived health, and more. Rock climbing demonstrates a range of health benefits such as improved cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance, metabolic responses related to how efficiently the body makes use of oxygen, which has not been seen in other sports, improved hormone regulation, and more.
The health benefits of alpine skiing include enhanced hormone production, lasting improvements to both resting heart rate and blood pressure, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in both middle aged and elderly participants, improvements to how efficiently the body absorbs oxygen , improved jump height, dynamic leg strength, and balance in the elderly.

As well, evidence suggests that simply being present in a natural setting accrues many health benefits not seen in participants who spend their time in an urban environment.

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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