8 simple ways to enjoy the outdoors more

June 30, 2015

Between office jobs, school and other commitments, most of us seem to spend way too much time indoors. The solution? Think "outside" when planning your day or activities. Here are eight ways to get everyone outdoors for some open-air fun the next time friends and family come for a visit.

8 simple ways to enjoy the outdoors more

1. Host a croquet party

Besides being a great theme for a party with neighbours or the family, croquet offers health benefits.

  • You'll get a little exercise by swinging your mallet, while ambling to and fro around your property will burn a few calories.
  • You'll also have a few laughs and learn the latest news – and you won't have to dig into coffee cake to get it.

2. Hold an apple hunt

Before you have guests over for a backyard barbecue, buy two dozen apples of different varieties.

  • Take a stroll around your property and find ingenious spots to hide the fruit.
  • When guests arrive, give everyone shopping bags and send them on a hunt for the apples.
  • Have them bring their treasures to a picnic table, where you're prepared with a bowl of water for rinsing apples, plus a knife and cutting board for chopping them up to share.

3. Keep a badminton set handy

For casual play, badminton is terrific when friends or family visit – or just for getting the kids outside!

  • It requires little expertise and it will keep everyone physically active.
  • At a party or during a visit, badminton also shifts the emphasis away from food.

Other easy and enjoyable games to keep in the garage include horseshoes, hula hoops and balls for playing catch.

4. Encourage eating outside

Outfit your patio or balcony with weatherproof furniture, an umbrella and, if possible, a grill.

  • These basics will encourage you to spend time outdoors, where you can dish up healthy al fresco meals like garden salads and grilled fish, chicken and lean meats.
  • Grilled foods are healthier because the fats drip away from the food as it cooks. What's more, grilled foods don't usually require heavy sauces or calorie-rich accompaniments.

5. Schedule outdoor tasks

Getting outside for even a few minutes a day can help reduce the symptoms of depression. It can also help you lose weight. That's why it's good to schedule outdoor tasks in your calendar, much as you would meeting a friend for coffee.

  • Light outdoor activities such as gardening and washing the car burn about six times the number of calories as watching TV.
  • You can even schedule a daily walk to your community mailbox, but take a slightly longer route. For company, invite a neighbour to join you.
  • During the summer, a few minutes of sunshine during months when the sun is high in the sky helps the body make vitamin D.  A deficiency of this vitamin has been shown to predispose people to obesity and increased insulin resistance.

6. Play hoops and sticks

If you're old enough, you may remember the old hoop-and-stick game and the fun you had chasing that rolling circle, tapping it now and then with a wooden wand. Why not revive the fun you had as a child?

  • For today's kids, the game is a jaw-dropping curiosity.
  • Pick up a hoop-and-stick set at a toy shop or search for one online.
  • Hang it in your shed and whip it out the moment your kids or grandchildren start reaching for their video games.

Although the game may seem "old school," having fun outside never grows old.

7. Install a bird feeder

Watching birds is incredibly relaxing and a feeder is what you need to attract them to your yard.

  • Check out a field guide to find out what kinds of birds you're likely to attract and then buy a feeder and seeds that suit their preferences.
  • Have some binoculars handy and record all the species of birds that visit your feeder. Who knows? You may catch the bird-watching bug and want to join a local bird watching club!

8. Add an interesting birdbath

Birds also need drinking and bathing water, so why not add a birdbath to your garden to encourage your winged visitors to spend more time.

  • Add four or five copper coins to the water to block the formation of algae so that you have to change the water less frequently.

An interesting birdbath can also become a visual focus and decorative feature in your garden.

  • A visit to your local garden centre or home improvement store will offer you plenty of options for birdbaths – some simple on a single pedestal, others more intricate with perhaps several tiers and flowing water.

It's easy to get so busy that you forget about the pleasures and benefits of the great outdoors. By planning outdoor activities and making your outdoor living spaces more appealing, after awhile the idea of being outside becomes automatic.

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