Why 20 Minutes Outside Really Is Perfect, Plus Other Ways to Better Your Outside Times (Dr. Kathleen Wolf)

Jump To section

Dr. Kathleen Wolfe

In 2017 when Amy picked 20 minutes as her minimum daily outdoor time, she based that decision on some research she read in passing that said 20 minutes is enough time to spend outside and see health benefits from doing so. But Amy isn’t a social scientist or a scientific researcher, so her choice of 20 minutes wasn’t overly scientific either. That and every other outdoor decision she’s made is just based on gut.

So was she right? Has her outdoor experiment been aimed at the right thing — or has she been wasting her life on the wrong timing and wrong activities? In this episode we bring in an actual outdoor experience researcher and scientist, Dr. Kathleen Wolf, to weigh-in on not just what the research says about what Amy is doing, but on how everyone can get the most out of their own time in nature.

Some of the good stuff:

[1:49] Dr. Kathleen Wolf’s favorite outdoor space

[4:16] Kathy’s journey to outdoor researcher

[6:58] What the research says about nature making you feel better

[9:24] What the research says about spending 20 minutes outside a day

[12:26] Is Amy too worried about dosage or doing something different every day?

[25:41] Does what you do outside matter?

[28:18] Is some of Amy’s outside time worthless?

[32:23] A Seatac airport secret – shhh don’t tell

[34:56] How people can get the most of their outdoor time

[39:07] Kathy’s favorite and most essential outdoor gear

[43:11] Kathy’s favorite outdoor moment

Connect with this episode:

Register for our newsletter to win a decal: https://humansoutside.com/newsletter

Follow us on Instagram and share your outdoor life with the hashtag #humansoutside365.

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast.

Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

Amy Bushatz 00:40

When I set out to spend at least 20 consecutive minutes outside for at first just a year, a project that now at the time of this recording has become exactly 1300 days in a row. I based what I wanted to do on a combination of a little research into what science says about the benefits of heading outside, and an overwhelming desire to investigate the whole thing for myself. Much of that research I leaned on was pulled together by social scientists like today’s guest, Dr. Kathleen Wolf. Kathy holds a PhD in Landscape Architecture and Environmental Psychology from the University of Michigan, and now does research at the University of Washington, where she spent more than two decades researching the way spending time outside impacts those who do. So that makes her the perfect person for us to talk to on Humans Outside. Kathy, welcome to Humans Outside. And thank you so much for joining us today.

Kathleen Wolf 1:49

Amy, thanks so much for the invitation. It’s a pleasure to be here. And congratulations on your anniversary of 20 minutes out every day.

AB 1:59

Thank you so much. I really appreciate that. So I’m so excited to talk to you today. I think our listeners know that I am a huge nerd when it comes to this stuff. You know, I started the project by gut like I said, but I just love the research too. So why don’t you start us with how we start all of our episodes by imagining ourselves chatting with our guests in their favorite outdoor space. Where are we with you today?

KW 2:25

Well, first of all, I really resonate with you being a nerd because I am a very active nerd in conducting this research. And so my favorite place – I have to explain that I have this kind of dual connection to nature, in that. On one hand, I grew up with a family that was very active outdoors, so I enjoy wild places. And so for me now in this time of COVID with social distancing, and whatnot, my favorite place is on the water of Puget Sound. I’ve been actively kayaking all through the winter, every weekend, weather permitting. And so for the moment, at least, that’s my favorite place. But then, on the other side of all this, the research that I do is about people’s encounters with nature, in everyday situations, what I term and others term “nearby nature.” And so my favorite nearby nature place is a very small forest reserve, tucked in this residential area that I live in near Seattle. And it’s my place of quick respite, the place that I can step out the door, I can get there by walking in about 15 minutes, I could take a little time going through the woods, come back home and again, do more Zoom calls. So I really have this combination of different functional favorite spaces.

AB 3:59

So I described your background just the tiniest little bit in the introduction. And you just told us a little bit about your research, but maybe tell us about how you became a person who researches going outside and then personally likes to go outside. What’s your journey to this point?

KW 4:16

Well, it’s a long trajectory as it is for many people, but I will say my career has been a bit of a meander. So I grew up in this family here in the Pacific Northwest – Tacoma, Washington. My dad was an outdoorsman, so I was out fishing and hiking and doing lots of things. And so I developed an interest in biology. So my undergraduate degree is in biology. But I studied at a small liberal arts school. And so I almost had a minor in philosophy. I was always drawn to this combination of nature and culture, society and nature. I married early, soon after graduation. My husband’s an educator. He got a job in Key West Florida. So where do we go from, from the Seattle area to Florida. And I worked as a, what would be called now an urban forester for the city of Key West, and became a local amateur expert in native flora, fascinating flora down there where the tropics kind of bashes up against temperate ecology. And landscape architects started contacting me to help specify plants, because they were required to use a certain number of native plants in their designs, and they had no clue because they were coming from Ohio and Michigan, in New York and whatnot. So I really enjoyed interacting with these professionals and thought — this is it. You know, I found that bridge, nature and culture. So I went off to grad school and thought I would become a landscape architect, but took some classes from Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, who are pioneering environmental psychologists, just brilliant people, they’re retired now. And that was it – it clicked, it was like — here it is that science, nature and culture. It really connected to my nerdiness and collecting data and publishing and all of that. So I returned to the University of Washington after graduation.

AB 6:23

It’s only a party foul if you’re from Ohio, so don’t worry about it. So I’m really excited to dive into the research today. And selfishly, I’m sort of here to help myself, but also help our listeners really make their outdoor time the best it can be, with the help, of course, of your expertise. So since we have to start somewhere, let’s start with this. I personally feel better when I spend time outside, and it doesn’t really matter what I’m doing, by the way. Does the research support my personal experience? Or am I over here living on the edge?

KW 6:58

Yeah, the research definitely supports your intuition. And that’s what I’m finding. Just a very quick overview of the research is through working on a website called Green Cities, Good Health, some graduate students and myself over the years, we’ve been collecting the articles that are coming from all over the world – English language articles, so there’s probably others in other languages. But we’re now up to near about 4000 articles having to do with nature and health response. So you’re certainly in line with the research. And the Green Cities, Good Health website has about a dozen topics. What we did was took articles, condense them into summaries, quick summaries with some citation. And we just see quite a broad array of different health benefits, from stress reduction to mental health boost to children, babies, women who are pregnant and who have green around them, their babies are a healthier birth weight when they’re born. Better performance in schools, just an astounding array of things, 40 years of research, 1000s of articles. And so what you came to intuition, we now have support from evidence and my work where I’m going now is to try to bring this to mainstream. How do we bring this research and evidence to ways that can influence how our communities are built and function?

AB 8:42

Hmm. So I picked some 20 minutes, because I read something somewhere at the time that suggested it was about how long I needed to go outside to get a benefit. And also it conveniently was about how long I felt like I could commit to because I thought, you know, five minutes seems kind of wussy and like not enough and 45 minutes seems like something that I probably could make the time for, but when it’s you know, negative degrees and very windy, I didn’t want to. So, since you’re familiar with the research, and are an actual scientist, fill us in. What does science say about this? And I think the term is dosage.

KW 9:24

Yes. So you know, this legacy of research started out with – the Kaplans were at the forefront of this – simply preference studies. Showing people images, an array very, very well defined distinct images, preference, how much do you like it, and sorting out statistically you know, what were the clusters? Well, nature scenes came up prominently in that. Then there was this movement to — what is the response to these images or to these situations? So then we started seeing reactions to places and nature settings, particularly with a health orientation. Now the research – two things that I see: one is the dosage that you described. And so we’re realizing that it’s not a one time thing, it is — how do you bring this into your life in a way that provides an ongoing level of benefit or, or production of benefit? And so with dosage there are questions of how much and how often, and then also less well known but coming along, and the research is, is different for different people by age, by location by country, things like that. So what you just, you know, from a hunch, you settled on 20 minutes a day, which is really, it’s in line with the dosage research studies. It hasn’t settled down to any sort of consistent recommendation, like the CDC might do, you know, with regard to physical activity. But the range of 20 minutes is about the minimum. One study, for instance, suggests that 120 minutes per week, 120 to 150 minutes per week, breaking that out into any sessions that are, you know, of convenient length and location for a person. But I think what’s really important about what you’ve done is not just the length, but that you’ve brought it into your lifestyle. And so what is important is this consistency, so you’re sustaining that benefit from day to day, or week to week. And that’s what’s really important in all of this, it’s not unlike a prescription that a doctor or a health care provider might give you. Well, in this time, you know, a vaccine, you know, for COVID is a one time treatment for something. But typically, we get a course of medication or a course of counseling, to help if we need a little boost with our health. And that’s what you just coincidentally settled on was an amount of time, but you pulled it into your lifestyle in a consistent way. And,that’s what counts. The third part of this is nearby nature. So yes, we benefit from leaving our homes or cities and going out to big bold landscapes, the National Parks and so on. That’s really valuable for us. But nearby nature is what this is really all about. That really daily encounter, just out the door, just down the street, even just looking out the window, at trees or nature settings can be of great value.

AB 12:46

So two things I want to ask you out of that. First of all, am I too worried about dosage? Like I am a rule follower. I wanted to make sure I had guardrails and parameters. And part of that was because before I started my 20 minute challenge I had done the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day as any outside time counts. And there was definitely a day in there that I went outside and stood in the rain for, it could not have been more than five minutes and said — that’s good. And I didn’t want to give myself permission to do that in the dead of winter when it was going to be really, really tempting. So part of it was setting guardrails. But on the flip side as a rule follower, I really stick to that 20 minutes. Now often it’s more than 20 minutes, I would say at this point, it’s almost always more than 20 minutes. But that is a sticking point. For me, it’s a bare minimum. Am I too worried about that?

KW 13:43

Oh, worried is not the right word. So I’ve done research and have worked in other parts of the world. And what I noticed is that Americans, we are very goal directed, right, we’re energetic, dynamic people, and we’re goal directed. So what you have set up for yourself is very reasonable. And if it gives you satisfaction, that’s what is important. Other people, I will say, are a little more relaxed about these things. Motivating oneself to some level of repetition of short duration of being in nature has been shown to be of great benefit to people. So it doesn’t have to be quite as disciplined as what you have taken on, but building it into routine, building it into your lifestyle in some sort of way. And that’s more difficult for some people just because there are more challenges in their lives – perhaps now with COVID you know, helping out your children with schooling. Maybe you’re working at home and and trying to juggle you know, all the things: meetings, or outreach to people, or trying to accomplish tasks. So there’s a lot of complexity. But what’s what’s really important is to set this as something that is important to your self care to make it equivalent to eating well, to sleeping well, to recognize that that this time in nature is not just — Oh, isn’t that nice to have, you know, I’ll go out one day a week or you know, we’ll drive to a park and hang out for a while. This is important stuff, and figuring out how to incorporate it into your life in a routine way, whether it’s highly goal driven or not, is what’s important.

AB 15:43

Yeah, so what I hear you saying is that it’s about the habit, not so much the goal, and if having a goal helps you build a habit, awesome. But what I really appreciate is that you are reminding me to do something that I try to remember to do in this challenge and with this group of people who are following along and listening to this podcast, which is to give them permission to set an amount of time that is good for them, or to go outside – simply go outside daily, the end – and I find 20 minutes to be ideal. You’ve talked about how the research supports that as a pretty good number. But that doesn’t mean someone else has to do that. And I never want to inflict my own type A personality on someone else.

KW 16:35

Make it convenient. Because we can find, just as with other health oriented behaviors, eating well, not drinking too much, sleeping, you know, adequate amount of time, there are challenges in our lives to achieving these goals, even though they’re evidence based and encouraged by health experts. So what I have found is that I have to make this convenient. So in other words, I have purchased the clothing. And as you will know, the outdoor clothing tech is incredible now, and you can set up your kit at a pretty reasonable price these days, you know, good rain gear, good fleece for insulation, all that. So setting up, it’s not only committing to this activity, but it’s also realizing what might be the barriers, what might be the challenges to me to do this and try to access the materials or the time to overcome those barriers. And for me, it’s been clothing, you know, I have the great clothing. We’ve talked about this, my daughter is she lives in Juneau, sort of close to you could probably compared to many other listeners. While she’s working in healthcare, she is a part time wilderness guide in the summer. And she has introduced me to so much high end tech clothing, but you don’t need to go to that price point. There’s very reasonably priced outdoor clothing that can set you up so you can get outdoors no matter what the weather might be.

AB 18:15

Yeah, and we have a whole episode focused on that and then like a series of incremental things focused on specifically what to wear when it’s cold outside, because that’s a huge challenge for people who want to go outside when they’re cold. No one, you know, you want to be comfortable. And you want to remove those barriers. And sometimes it’s just an education piece, you don’t know what you don’t know. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. You just have to know how to layer and know how to not wear cotton. And then there are some tips and tricks in there that can really help you out in the wintertime.

KW 18:53

I’ve got this kit for walking via short walks or long hikes. I’ve got this kit for cycling – I’m a bike commuter when we could commute. All through the year, I would ride my bike to get to work. And you know, various outdoor kayaking – I’ve got a full winter kit for for kayaking in cold and wind and whatnot. And I kind of love the feeling when I’m in this bubble of warmth. It’s sort of a security blanket, you know, being out and knowing I’m prepared, I can go out for hours. It’s a really satisfying feeling for me.

AB 19:37

Yeah, it is pretty great. So you touched on something a minute ago that I wanted to, it was the second thing I wanted to ask you about. One of the things that I was hesitant on when I started my challenge was the risk of falling into the trap of doing the same thing every day because it was convenient. I didn’t want to just, you know, wear a path into my local backwoods every day because it was there and not make an effort to try new things or to sort of step, you know, step outside of my comfort zone, although I really appreciate that the woods are there when I don’t have time to make an effort. So I was hoping you could address if there is a danger in always doing the same thing or if the research talks about or doesn’t maybe talk about that at all?

KW 20:33

That’s a really interesting question. I’m not aware of research that has addressed routine, if you will, either of time, place, whatever. Let me let me give this a little thought, again, based on a familiarity with 1000s of articles. One thing I will say is, it doesn’t seem to matter. There’s something about being outdoors that I don’t think would be it would be any different whether this was a routine walk that you did, or whether you pursued, you know a novel experience every day or often. The reason I say that is, again, I’ll go back to the Kaplans, and one of their most profound ideas, I think, is Attention Restoration Theory. And what they noted is that people are in our lives now, as a species, this attention to detail and focus on screens, on paper, on budgets, on reports, on writing, is a fairly new phenomenon in our species’ history. And our brains do well, but we get fatigued. There’s cognitive fatigue with that level of attention to detail over a sustained time. And when we encounter this fatigue, we can get frustrated, we can get irritable, there are even studies showing that we could potentially become more aggressive to people who are around us, because it’s a secondary effect of this fatigue with the sort of tasks that we’re having to face. So the research from the Kaplans and now others, you know, their students and colleagues are showing that being outdoors alleviates that attention fatigue, it helps us restore cognitive ability, because of the elements in nature that draw our attention without effort. And so I don’t think that going through a routine area, as long as we’re attentive, as long as we put aside the phone, as long as we are in not really a meditative state, but a state of intentional observation of what’s around us. That’s what’s important in helping us to restore cognitive fatigue, and also easing stress, which is another set of studies that was done by Roger Ulrich, showing that just moments outside helps to reduce the stress response that we may not even be aware of, as it’s a physiological sort of response. So interesting question that you pose. And I really don’t have an answer, but my hunch is, it really doesn’t matter. Another dimension of this that is coming out of the research fairly recently is that in terms of mental health, greater biodiversity in these nature settings seems to be of benefit. So there’s there’s benefit of nature generally be it in a more formal garden, be it in a very small space, whatever. But if there’s more biodiversity in that space, in terms of species variety of plant materials in particular, and birds, bird abundance and bird diversity is being used as a proxy in these studies. There’s an additional margin of particularly mental health benefit. And I find that fascinating, because that starts to address — How do we rewild our cities? How do we introduce nature in a way that generates various ecosystem services in addition to human health response, such as improved water management, improved air quality, enhanced carbon sequestration, and all of those things?

AB 24:27

I always tell people that it doesn’t matter what you’re doing outside as long as you’re out there. I mean, being outside is better than not being outside. And of course, then there’s a hierarchy of things you can do. But I’m wondering if I’m lying. Is that true? Is there anything that I can do outside that doesn’t benefit me? Or is doesn’t matter what I do outside?

KW 25:41

Oh, that’s interesting as well. Okay, let’s, let’s first of all talk about what you are doing outside. So our nation, okay, COVID aside, but our nation, the major public health challenges to us, prior to COVID and ongoing, will be chronic disease, heart disease, diabetes, as our population is aging – cognitive disorders, dementia, so on. So what is really valuable is walking, moderate, and not high exertion, running, high speed cycling stuff, that’s fun if you enjoy it, but it’s not necessary. Moderate activity, walking, and again, you know, up to 20 minutes or more a day is wonderful, that’s kind of in line with the CDC recommendations. So walking itself generates a range of benefits. So there’s the activity, and then the space itself. So people, security, you have to feel you have to be in a place where you don’t feel threatened. And that might be a perceived threat, as well as actual crime. So there’s sort of a cultural threat, you know, maybe other people that you’re aware of, or you don’t feel secure in this space, as well as the, the facilities of the place, are the paths smooth? Are they accessible? And and so there’s a variety of things that come into play for what is a valuable or beneficial place that you might be in.

AB 27:32

So I’m thinking of the times that I have spent my outdoor time, and I know others have had the same experience in a situation that I would personally consider less than ideal. And that’s ranked on a hierarchy of, you know, would I rather be on top of a mountain? Yes, but I’m not. I’m in a parking garage, right? So I’m wondering if I’m checking my box, saying — I did my outdoor time, even though I was walking around a city street in the dark, because that’s the time I had. And if I’m actually getting any kind of benefit out of that at all, you know, should that time be tossed? Do I need to go outside when it’s light outside? And that kind of thing.

KW 28:18

Well, as I mentioned, there’s different dimensions of this. So just being out walking is definitely valuable. Being out in any kind of nature. You know, even a single tree or a single plant, again, if you have this attentive attitude, while during these encounters can be really valuable. What about those really horrible, horrible days and winter in particular, when the weather you’re just like — I can’t go out there, I’ll get blown across the street. One of my colleagues does research about virtual environments, virtual nature environments. And his decades of research is summarized as virtual nature is better than nothing at all. Real nature is better than virtual. And I have done a review paper with some colleagues that we published last year with a focus on trees and health. And that’s what we found was the range of expressions of nature from images and simulations into complete immersion in forest for days at a time, the forest bathing sort of literature, there was evidence of benefit. As an example of virtual nature, I have a colleague at Utah University, Utah, Nalini Nadkarni. She’s an ecologist but she’s become involved with prisons, developing programs where prison inmates are growing materials that are used for ecological restoration. Fascinating project, but she did a study with prison where they put highly secure digital screens into rooms where they were projecting images of nature and max security inmates were given the opportunity, the choice to be in this room versus an outdoor time in their gray, stark, sterile exercise yard. And what they found was in this, you know, very small sample preliminary results, they found that there was less aggression on the part of these inmates against the staff and less infractions of the rules. So these were simulations with a behavioral outcome, which is fascinating. So I would say that from the research, you know, be it total immersion for a very long time, to an encounter with an individual tree, an individual plant, a, frankly, a small garden that you create on your deck, or in a small bit of your yard. Any of that has value.

AB 31:07

I love that because I’m remembering a time that I did my outdoor time for the day, because when you travel from Alaska to anywhere, really, it’s just it’s an entire day experience. It’s just a very, very long day, involving lots of airplanes in time sitting and being in an airport. But we had a layover in Seattle, and I took my kids outside to that drop off area right outside the Seattle airport. And we walked up and down that, you know, dodging smokers out of the smoking area for 25 minutes. But at the very end of that drop off area – so if you were to drive into there, and as you’re approaching the drop off area, there is a tree on some grass on a hill, okay. And we made it down there. And I stood there and I just stared at this tree for I don’t know, a couple of minutes. Realizing that you know what, even in this exhaust cigarette smoke area, I mean, you have to walk by the smoker bench on the way to this tree. Okay, so even in this area, we are experiencing this tiny slice of nature. And this tiny slice of nature has improved my day, when it’s compared to not coming out here at all.

KW 32:23

Oh, clearly, clearly. And here’s a tip for you. Since I’m quite familiar with the SeaTac airport, if you walk all the way to the other end, there’s a fairly nice garden that’s attempting to replicate Pacific Northwest conifer forests, just to let you really get away from the smokers.

AB 32:43

Oh, man, I wish I had known at the time. Hot tip, my fellow traveler! SeaTac Airport has a tiny little forest. And if you can escape security, talk about a reason to have TSA precheck get back in there as fast as you know, minimize your time in the security line, maximize your time outside on the sidewalk.

KW 33:08

In my network of collaborators, and intriguing people are forest therapy guides. So coming out of the research of forest bathing that’s been going on for over a decade in Japan and South Korea, there are now certification programs for forest therapy guides, and I know a few people who have completed that certification. And I’ve attended a couple of conferences where there are ideas about how to build this movement. And — because of that I’ve gone through or participated in some of these guided sessions. And it’s fascinating to me, because while I’m a participant, I always have my scientists mind thinking, gosh, you know, what, what can I study here? But I’ll recount that, at one of the conferences. There was a forest bathing guide from Hong Kong and another from Singapore. And they offered an urban forest bathing session. I thought — I’m in! So myself and about a dozen people, we went with these two women. And we went to a single tree. And the entire hour and a half was an encounter of ever increasing depth of sensory experience and connection to this single tree. I think it was a Norway maple. I mean, it was nothing remarkable. But they just brought us to a place of our body and mind connecting to this tree. And it was fantastic. And it really changed my outlook. I’d read the research about you know, modest amounts of nature and the benefit. And this experience really enhanced my understanding of that potential.

AB 34:56

Oh, so cool. So I want to give people, before we wrap up here, maybe three research based ways that they can get the most from their outdoor time. We’ve talked about a bunch of stuff during this episode. But let’s just tie it into a bow for folks. So they can, you know, hear this part be like — yes, this is what I’m going to do and go forth. Give us some tips.

KW 35:20

Well, we’ve been talking primarily about individuals’ behavior, or choices or habits. And you’re such a great model of that. And in this conversation, we have, you know, come to realize, and really confirm that a short amount of time is valuable. So any amount of time that you can spare, 20 minutes, be it more or a bit less, any amount of time. But what’s important is to develop some sort of routine so that that benefit is sustained, because the research shows that there’s an immediate physiological or mental health response, but it carries over a certain amount of time. And we don’t know as much about that durability as we do about the response in the moment. So figuring out you know, you can start to feel that in your own self, your own place, your own family, your household, whatever is, is that carryover effect. I certainly feel it, when I kayak, I feel that that time on the water is a boost for me that lasts for days. But at another level, if you are a community leader, or neighborhood activist, you’re involved with a civic organization in your community. Think about providing nature for other people. And we’re reckoning now, because of this evidence, that parks and green spaces and trees are not just, you know, — Oh, isn’t that nice to have? We’re realizing they’re profoundly important elements in our communities. And we’re also realizing the research is showing that there’s disparities across cities, in the amount of green space available to people. So if that is part of your life, or you have that influence in your community, look around and think about how to help provide this resource for others.

AB 37:22

Hmm, Wow, that’s so good. Thank you so much for that. My dream is that people walk away from listening to this validated in whatever amount of time they’re spending outside, validated. And however they’re choosing to do that. And then also inspired to practice and integrate some of the best habits or higher outcome habits that you’ve identified.

KW 37:48

So yeah, if I might just add one more thing is, in the United States, we tend to think of nature as an individual thing: go out and, you know, goal setting and achievement. But group walking, some people are more social. So if it works out, that you walk with your children, or your partner, or a neighbor or a friend, and that helps motivate – that’s another thing that we’re seeing in the research, that social connection around this can be really helpful.

AB 38:23

I think we could talk about this all day long, but you have research to do and you gotta keep doing that for us so that we can leverage what we’re doing with our time the best way we can. We usually end these episodes talking about our favorite outdoor gear or most essential outdoor gear, items that we have or have created even or encountered in our journeys that make spending time the best it can be. You and I chatted a little bit about this ahead of time and I can’t wait to hear your answer to this because I think it’s really, really important. So talk to us about your favorite or most essential outdoor gear.

KW 39:07

I’ve talked about my background, my interest. I have dual mind here, so I do really enjoy getting away wilderness activity, but I also enjoy that nearby nature. So for nearby nature, and just getting out in the neighborhood and walking to this little forest patch near me, boots keep my feet. Last summer I was at a shop and I found these rubber boots that fit me so nicely and they’re insulated. I love that. That’s my favorite at this time. So for the more wild. My kayak. I bought a Delta kayak last spring. I love this boat, but we’re starting to think about summer activities. I have a very cozy comfy sleeping pad – getting a good night’s sleep while out backpacking or even car camping. Ah, that’s a game changer. And, and so, once again, you know, I might have gotten a little high end on these things, but they give me such great satisfaction. And you can do the same at a much lower price point. So I think that’s what’s important here.

AB 40:29

I love that you emphasize that because you’ve emphasized two things that really increase your comfort, which is something you talked about earlier. And I think that it’s important to go back to that, you know, it doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to be high tech, it just has to be right for you. And you’re more likely to want to spend time outside if your feet are cozy and well insulated. And if when you sleep on the ground, your entire body does not hurt the next morning. It’s just human nature. You know, why would you go do something that’s terrible?

KW 41:11

I’ll add one more thing I’m reflecting on is my two different sort of sets, gear sets, if you will. But I use this metaphor of the value of nature experiences in both of us in our lives, how this is expressed, but I equate it to nutrition. So every day, we need high quality food, for energy, for nutrients, you know, we need good food to sustain us. And it’s important that people have access to that. Not everyone does. And that, again, should be a broader society goal. But everyday nutrition is important. But every once in a while you get together when we can again, get together with friends and family for a feast, Thanksgiving, a nice dinner out, something like that. And that’s a special experience, sometimes quite memorable, it becomes something that you return to in your thoughts over time, I find that this outdoor experience is not unlike that, that you need everyday nutrition, your 20 minute walks on a daily basis, they sustain you just like eating good meals might do. And on the other hand, just this is I would guess a lot of your listeners do that occasional outing, it takes planning, it takes effort, it’s days or maybe a little longer away. That’s that memorable experience, but it’s not enough of itself to provide the full array of nature benefits.

AB 42:49

So true. Alright, last thing, walk us out envisioning your favorite outdoor moment. If you close your eyes, I like to think about it as my happy place, my outdoor happy place. So just take yourself to a moment that is something that you harken back to. Where are you and what are you doing?

KW 43:11

Well, I have to say that that I’m blessed to live in a place that offers a lot of these sorts of opportunities and frankly, return to this part of the country after studies and work in other parts of the nation because I was self aware of not only family, a lot of family here, but these places that in a sense our family. But I’ll just say time on the water in my kayak. On one hand, the water is glassy. And each time I dip my paddle there is this wonderful sound of disturbing that surface, a mild splash that I so enjoy. And then often when we’re out that glassy water turns to two foot seas because the wind kicks up and the sensation of surfing when one is paddling with the wind, the wind is at your back and you’re surfing across these waves. I love that in and around this, there are the curious harbor seals whose heads they poke up. They glance at you. They look about. They’re trying to figure out — what is this creature on the water? And then they duck back in the water. River otters that are very, very playful and occasionally harbor porpoise. And then they dip out of the water. There might be many, many individuals around us but they seem to be in small pods of three to four to five animals. They turn as they come up for air and we were so close that we can hear the hiss of them breathing. So this is a collection of memories that sustain me and continue to build each time I’m able to get out on the water.

AB 45:20

Kathy, thank you so much for sharing your insights and research with us today. Thank you so much for being on Humans Outside.

KW 45:28

It’s been a pleasure. I’ve so enjoyed this interview. Thanks, Amy.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Jump To section



Humans Outside Instagram

How does spending at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day since Sept. 1, 2017 change your life? 

We’re on a mission to find out.

[instagram-feed feed=1]

JOIN Us Today


Keep up with the latest podcast episodes, resources and announcements