Time Spent Outdoors is Good for Your Mental Health
Time Spent Outdoors is Good for Your Mental Health
Newsletter of the Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
May 29, 2019
A wooden bridge spans a small creek surrounded by green forest
Featured in Our Good Natured Blog
Green Might Be What’s Needed the Next Time You Are Feeling Blue
In John Muir’s published collection of sketches and descriptions of national parks in 1901, he wrote that, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”
The same sentiment has been felt by many. Ask anyone that spends a lot of time outdoors, and they’ll say being in nature makes them feel better.
Sunlight on your face, the quiet whisper of a gentle breeze bending tree branches, or the rippling sound of water bubbling over rocks in a stream, all have deeply, restorative benefits, not only for your physical health, but your mental health as well. And now, there’s research to prove it. Read more…
Secretary Dunn, DCNR staff and Mid State Trail staff pose next to the new Trail of the year sign
Mid State Trail Honored as 2019 Trail of the Year
DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn joined Mid State Trail Association members and other hiking enthusiasts in celebrating the designation of the Mid State Trail as Pennsylvania’s 2019 Trail of the Year.
The Mid State Trail’s sheer length offers more challenges to hikers than any other trail in the state. Sometimes-difficult hiking takes travelers through isolated forests and past historic sites, vistas, waterfalls, and natural springs.
The Mid State Trail is Pennsylvania’s longest trail. Its 327 miles traverse some of Pennsylvania’s most remote and scenic areas; and stretch from the Maryland to New York borders.
“Drawn by the natural beauty that captures the essence of Pennsylvania’s wild places, thousands of hiking enthusiasts take to the Mid State each year, regardless of the season,” Dunn told trail supporters gathered at Raymond B. Winter State Park. Read more…
Secretary Dunn assists PA outdoor corps members as they construct shelters in the woods
Pa. Outdoor Corps Praised During Improvement Project in Laurel Ridge State Park
Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and other DCNR officials visited a project underway by the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps at Laurel Ridge State Park, Somerset County, where she hailed the young adults for their strong work ethic.
“I always enjoy visiting these work sites because I hear firsthand how you young folks appreciate both the job opportunities you have, and the chance to connect with the outdoors and gain training necessary for future successful employment,” Dunn told a crew building a firewood shelter for hikers on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. “I also hear nothing but praise for what you accomplish in state parks and forestlands throughout the state.”
Beginning its fourth year, the Pa. Outdoor Corps offers work experience, job training, and educational opportunities to young people who complete recreation and conservation projects on Pennsylvania's public lands.
The program helps protect and restore public lands while providing young people with the knowledge to be good stewards of the state’s natural resources. Read more…
Secretary Dunn and other stakeholders break ground together in front of the Brady tunnel
Brady Tunnel Groundbreaking Will Close Major Trail Gap
Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn recently joined local and conservancy officials, and hiking and biking enthusiasts in a groundbreaking signaling the start of Brady Tunnel renovations.
To connect 5.5 miles of the Armstrong Trail from the southern portal of the Brady Tunnel to the end of the Allegheny Valley Land Trust property, it will require between $6.9 to $10.4 million to stabilize and rehabilitate the tunnel.
“This project helps our department meet its goal of having a trail within 15 minutes of every citizen by closing openings in Pennsylvania’s current trail system,” Dunn said.
Over the past seven years, DCNR has invested $773,400 in grant funds to facilitate renovations and help close what it sees as a vital Armstrong Trail gap in a proposed trail system that would eventually stretch from Erie to Pittsburgh. Read more…
Dept. Secretary Mike Walsh and ofther community leaders discuss infrastructure needs
DCNR Tours Norristown, Discusses How Restore Pennsylvania Could Address Infrastructure Needs 
DCNR Deputy Secretary Michael Walsh joined state and Norristown and Montgomery County officials in a tour to discuss how the Restore Pennsylvania proposal could help address green infrastructure needs in the borough.
“The areas we viewed and the proposals we heard are essential to this county seat’s growth as a transportation and recreation leader,” Walsh said. “Meeting green infrastructure needs in Norristown is crucial to the borough's success, and Restore Pennsylvania is critical in addressing those needs.”
Keying in on the area of DeKalb and East Lafayette Streets, the group discussed investments that could serve as a driver of economic development, tourism, and public health. Read more…
Elisa Sarantschin poses on a rocky outcrop at a vista
Good Natured Pennsylvanians
Elisa Sarantschin, director of NaturePHL, is helping Philadelphia’s children and families achieve better health through activity in local parks, trails, and green spaces.
Through NaturePHL, she’s bringing together physicians, educators, public health advocates, park and recreation agencies, and other organizations to offer outdoor activity and nature prescriptions for Philadelphia families.
Pediatricians at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia give counseling to patients and their families about the benefits of outdoor recreation and time in nature during every well child visit.
Doctors can give tailored messaging and prescriptions for where to go and what to do. Everyone can benefit from NaturePHL messaging, which is why the prescriptions are meant for the whole family.
Elisa says that, “there are different health benefits associated with spending time in nature, both physical and mental for different age groups, so our program makes sure to address this by creating different materials and resources for each age group.”
Exercise and outdoor recreation have long been a recommendation by doctors; however, this program differs from simple “doctors’ orders.” NaturePHL’s core goal is creating behavior change as opposed to one-time change.
The program is a resource for physicians, giving providers the ability to give local, specific, and impactful counseling about how children should be getting 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
The final step in program is having providers refer families to a Nature Navigator, who is a community health worker and social worker that works to help the family fill their prescription.
Nature Navigators are another important component that makes NaturePHL one of the most successful of its kind.
They use motivational interviewing techniques to understand what real or perceived barriers families have to spending more time outside; and help them overcome these barriers by working personally with a family for a few months in order to start creating a behavior change.
“Our team has a background in public health and knows about the socio-economic model and the importance of an individual’s spheres of influence; meaning, you can’t just have a doctor telling a patient to get more exercise and spend more time outdoors. Instead, you need the messaging to be coming from all of their spheres of influence, which for our program means school educators, family members, parks and recreation leaders.”
Nature prescriptions and counseling about the benefits of being outside can be used as preventive measures for childhood obesity, as well as other physical and mental disorders seen in both children and adults.
Elisa thinks programs like NaturePHL will have a strong influence on decreasing childhood obesity and improving public health.
Elisa loves everything about being outdoors. Her favorite activity is hiking with her rescued shepherd mix, as well as kayaking and biking in the many outdoor recreation spaces in Philadelphia where she lives.
“There is a movement surfacing regarding how to link health and nature. I would love for more programs like NaturePHL to continue to expand and grow to the rest of Pennsylvania,” she says. “I believe that initiatives involving the health care community and disseminating more information about how being outside and spending time in nature can improve physical and mental health is the first step.”
Know of a good natured Pennsylvanian who is passionate about outdoor recreation and/or conservation that we should feature? Contact us at ra-resource@pa.gov to nominate someone.

Also in the News

Secretary Dunn, Gov. Wolf and others speak about imporvemnets at the Glen Onoko trail head in the woods
Glen Onoko Trail Improvements Could Be Possible Through Restore PA
Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn joined Governor Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Bryan J. Burhans, and Senator John Yudichak at the Glen Onoko Falls Trail which closed to the public on May 1.
The group discussed how the Restore Pennsylvania proposal could help address such green infrastructure needs in the state.
“Glen Onoko Falls and other beautiful Pennsylvania locations help to drive our tourism industry and local economies, but we need the resources to invest in them,” said Governor Wolf. “We must upgrade our infrastructure from our scenic trails to our small towns and big cities. Restore Pennsylvania is critical in addressing those needs.”
Glen Onoko Falls at State Game Lands 141 in Lehigh Township, Carbon County, outside of Jim Thorpe, is known for waterfalls and scenic views, and the hike that leads to them. The Pennsylvania Game Commission, which owns the land, closed the trail leading to the falls on May 1 due to unsafe conditions from erosion and overuse.
Restore Pennsylvania will increase resources for new environmental projects and recreational opportunities across the state, including infrastructure and maintenance in state parks, creation, and revitalization of new local parks, and funding for new hiking, biking, and ATV trail projects.
Par and Recreation Professionals Day July 19, 2019
Save the Date: Park and Recreation Professionals Day
July is Park & Recreation Month across the nation. Here in Pennsylvania, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Recreation & Park Society, we’ll honor the men and women who work tirelessly behind the scenes to provide the parks and recreation programs and facilities that Pennsylvanians enjoy every day.
As a tribute to your local parks and recreation providers, make a plan to visit a local park or recreation facility on Friday, July 19, or the weekend following.
Take the time to meet and say thanks to a programmer, manager, maintainer, landscaper, facilitator, lifeguard, coach, event organizer, or caretaker.
Secretary Dunn sits on the floor with elementary school students at the Jewish Community Center in Pittsburgh
Secretary Dunn Read to Students for 1-4-3 Day in PA
DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn visited the Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh and read books to children for 1-4-3 Day in PA. The books that she read and donated are about kindness and getting outdoors.
Governor Wolf designated May 23 (the 143rd day of the year) in honor of Fred Rogers, who used the numbers 1-4-3 to represent the letters in the words “I love you."
By Friday morning, the “Kindness Tracker” on the 143 Day website had tallied more than 16,000 good deeds. The number tracked Pennsylvanians tweeting out acts of kindness using #143DayinPA.
Be sure to mark your calendars for next May 23 to help spread kindness on Pennsylvania’s newest holiday!
A girl in a red kayak paddles down a creek with green bushes on the rocky shoreline
Canoeing and Kayaking Pennsylvania’s Scenic Waterways in The Age of Climate Change
Subtle or pronounced increases in annual rainfall can unseasonably swell normally calm creeks and rivers to dangerous levels.
And, according to National Weather Service data, annual rainfall amounts have steadily been increasing in Pennsylvania for the past decades, with a very pronounced increase since 1990.
In addition, the Nation Weather Service reports that rainfall is occurring in brief storm downpours that are up to 70 percent wetter than in previous decades.
For boaters, heavy downpours can lead to increased risk on our waterways. Stream and river levels can rise quickly, and gusty winds in unusually strong thunderstorms can knock trees into the water, creating life threatening “strainers.” Read more about safe paddling in DCNR’s recent blog post.
With longer days, warmer weather, and lots of outdoor recreation on the way this summer it is important to be aware of the danger of ticks and Lyme disease.
Pennsylvania cases of Lyme disease are among the highest in the country, and ticks carrying Lyme disease have been found in each of Pennsylvania's 67 counties. Follow these tips to reduce your risk of contracting Lyme disease:
  • Walk in the center of trails and try to avoid brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone
  • Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin
  • Check your clothing, gear, and pets for ticks after coming indoors
  • Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors
  • Shower within two hours after coming indoors to help wash off unattached ticks
  • Do a thorough self-check before or after showering by using a mirror to view all parts of your body -- especially under the arms, in and around the ears, scalp, between the legs, and around the waist
Learn more about reducing your exposure to Lyme disease at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Summer is just around the corner which means that hiking trails around Pennsylvania are ready to go! This Saturday, June 1, is National Trails Day, and next Saturday, June 8, is National Get Outdoors Day!
Check out some of the upcoming hiking events for a chance to celebrate Pennsylvania’s trails. Some events require registration:

Featured Video

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) offer safe boating tips. Pennsylvania State Parks offer great opportunities for new and experienced boaters. (2019)
Gear up for a responsible and fun boating season in Pennsylvania state parks and forests this summer by making sure you are prepared!
DCNR and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission have teamed up to provide you with what you need to know to stay safe and have fun on the water in Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests. Check the DCNR’s boating web page for ideas on where to get started.
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