Although the United States has 250 million acres of public land available for recreational use, only 49% of Americans claimed to have participated in outdoor recreation in 2017.

Unfortunately, a recent study by REI reports that 95% of the U.S. population’s time is spent indoors. Research shows that public lands, recreation areas, and green space offer a number of mental and physical health benefits. This dichotomy presents an opportunity for the outdoor industry to move beyond simply encouraging people to get outside and begin to advocate for outdoor recreation as a compelling solution to improve American health and wellness. The outdoor industry is at a moment where it can lead change by working hand-in-hand with government, nonprofit, and health sectors to implement policies that support the health and wellness benefits of getting outdoors.

The outdoor industry in the United States is valued at $887 billion and significantly supports rural and urban economies across the country by providing 7.6 million jobs. Furthermore, in September 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released data showing that the outdoor industry accounts for 2.2% of the nation’s
GDP. In order for the industry to continue to be successful and maintain a strong position in the economy, consumers must be healthy and active. Therefore, it is critical that the industry uses its voice to be involved in policy discussions about incorporating outdoor recreation in healthcare.

Across the nation, there are many different types of programs in the private, nonprofit, and governmental sectors for which outdoor companies can begin to advocate for incorporating outdoor recreation into health
plans. These types of programs are grounded in a growing body of evidence that time outside has many positive health benefits. They could also serve as a cost-effective alternative to conventional treatments, lowering healthcare costs for companies, while providing employees alternatives for improving their health and wellness. Supporting outdoor recreation in healthcare is vital for the continued success of outdoor brands.

The outdoor industry has a passionate following and is an economic leader in communities across the country. It actively focuses on getting people outdoors, and its livelihood depends on people being outside to recreate. With a robust social media presence and fervent customer base, companies can use their voices to advocate for using outdoor recreation in healthcare. Outdoor enthusiasts understand the psychological and physical benefits of being outside, and that thes types of health benefits should be accessible to all. This is a time when companies, policy makers, recreationalists, and the healthcare industry can come together to promote a healthier lifestyle for everyone through outdoor recreation.