Western New York winters can take a toll on all of us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Now that the warm weather is here, it’s time to get outside and break out of that winter slump! Let’s talk about why it’s so important–as well as go over some creative ways to spend more time outside!
Can Going Outside Actually Boost Your Health?
We’ve collectively suffered from cabin fever for the better part of two years now. You might be aware of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), characterized by low-mood and depression during the darker, colder months. However, exercise and Vitamin D–byproducts of going outside–can significantly boost your physical, mental, and emotional health!
According to the U.S. Forest Service, spending time outdoors in green spaces has been scientifically shown to increase life expectancy, improve sleep quality, and even reduce cancer risk! Some studies have even shown outdoor environments–especially in urban settings–can motivate more people to exercise!
But what about your mental health?
Those same studies have found links between spending time in green outdoor spaces and a lower risk of depression, faster psychological stress recovery, and strengthened mental capabilities, like improved focus! In other words, taking a weekend day to soak in the sun, exercise, and reset can help you perform better–both at work and home–the following week!
Let’s not forget, the outdoors serves as a perfect community space! Where better to meet friends, walk the dog, or play with the kids than in the great outdoors? Whether it’s a neighborhood park, one of our many beautiful state parks, or anything in between, exposure to the beauty of nature is good for the body and soul.
Creative Outdoor Activities For Spring & Summer
You don’t have to hike a mountain or participate in a triathlon to take in the great outdoors. On that same note, you don’t have to be part of a sports team, exercise club, or fitness class. You simply have to get up and go outside!
Doctors actually recommend spending roughly 120 hours a week, or about 20 minutes a day, outdoors. What are some good outdoor activities?
Without leaving your property, you can hang out in the front or backyard!
Bring a sheet outside and host an outdoor picnic–just be sure to choose healthy options!
Bring a ball or some chalk outside and play or color on the sidewalks!
Consider a group walk around your neighborhood to clean up litter!
Plant flowers, go for a walk, or ride a bike!
Climb a tree, organize a scavenger hunt, run through the sprinklers, or look for funny shapes in the clouds!
No matter how you look at it, there are no shortages of fun, creative activities to do outside. You can even create your own! As long as you’re taking in Vitamin D, your body is reducing your levels of cortisol–lowering your stress and making you feel better! Get outside today!
Get Outside With These Great Outdoor Spots!
Western New York offers plenty of captivating destinations to soak up the great outdoors. Let’s take a look at some of the best local spots to check out this spring & summer!
Buffalo Harbor State Park: Check out this 190-acre state park and marina on the shores of Lake Erie! It’s one of the area’s top family-friendly spots! Take in scenic views of Lake Erie, hang out on the beach, or let the kids play on the nautical-themed playground. Best of all, the park is right next to Tifft Nature Preserve!
Tifft Nature Preserve: Just a 5-minute drive from downtown Buffalo and adjacent to Buffalo Harbor State Park, this 264-acre gem is one of the largest nature preserves in New York! With over 5-miles of trails, programs and classes for both kids and adults, and exciting, active events, you’ll always find fun at Tifft Nature Preserve!
Buffalo Outer Harbor: Soak in the shores of Lake Erie and explore the natural side of the city of Buffalo! The Buffalo Outer Harbor has more than 200 acres of green space! Plus, it hosts events and festivals, as well as free summer classes, kayak and bicycle rentals, and more!
Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens: Located within South Park, these indoor and outdoor gardens boast an impressive array of flowers and foliage, and provide a perfect nature escape!
Cazenovia Park: At 83 acres, Cazenovia Park is a jewel of South Buffalo. A great spot for picnics, walks, sports, swimming, and more, this is a must-visit for the family. Look for the farmers market during the warmer months and check out the free exercise classes!
Charles E. Burchfield Nature Center: This 29-acre beauty on the banks of Buffalo Creek has 2+ miles of nature trails, tons of open space, and countless community activities. Be sure to check out the art museum!
Como Lake Park: On the banks of Cayuga Creek in Lancaster (about 14 miles east of downtown Buffalo), this 534-acre park offers many kinds of wildlife, plants, nature trails, and countless activities for folks of all ages! There are also tons of play areas for children, sports fields, and bike trails as well as indoor facilities and shelters for events.
Chestnut Ridge Park: You won’t want to miss this 1,151-acre behemoth, located about 15 miles southeast of downtown Buffalo in Orchard Park. With facilities and space for tennis, hiking, disc golf, and so much more, as well as scenic views of both Buffalo and Lake Erie, Chestnut Ridge is a great place to visit year-round! The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has even held summer concerts here!
Knox Farm State Park: The former country estate of Buffalo’s Knox family, Knox Farm State Park is a 633-acre state park located in East Aurora (about 20 miles southeast of Downtown Buffalo). Observe wildlife, hike, ride horses, and soak in all that nature has to offer! Don forget to check out the dog park!
Delaware Park: This 350-acre serene city retreat in the heart of Buffalo is chock-full of activity and breathtaking sights. The crown jewel of the Olmsted Parks System, Delaware Park has a little bit of something for everyone, from walking trails to sports fields to art museums and more! It’s the 716’s answer to Manhattan’s Central Park! It’s even right next to the Buffalo Zoo!
The Buffalo Zoo: Did you know the Buffalo Zoo is the nation’s third-oldest zoo? The second-largest tourist attraction in Western New York (behind only Niagara Falls), the zoo is a great spring & summer attraction! Featuring over 1,200 different animals, walking trails, and outdoor fun, the zoo is a must-visit!
Erie County Wendt Beach Park: When the weather gets hot, you won’t want to miss this 164-acre waterfront park in Erie County. With both beach-related and active recreational offerings, there’s plenty of fun and activity to be had!
Get Outside Today!
There is no shortage of safe, beautiful, family-friendly outdoor spots in Western New York. Make the most of spring and summer and strive to spend as much outside as possible! Whether you’re walking, hiking, swimming, biking, or anything in between, you’re guaranteed to feel better!