June is Great Outdoors Month—the perfect excuse to switch off your smartphone, lace up your boots and go explore our national and state parks.

Studies show that the simplest (and cheapest) way to reduce stress levels and depression is to surround yourself with the beauty of nature, take in some fresh air, and get a little exercise along the way. Studies also show that the great outdoors can improve focus and overall wellbeing.1

I grew up around horses but never had one of my own. I now live on a property that includes a boarding facility where I keep my own four-legged beauty along with 80 others. Living here affords me access to miles of trails, as well as the opportunity to ride about three times a week. I also go horse camping a few times a year and even work cattle with my horse. Not only is horseback riding great exercise, it’s calming and fun. I have suffered from back problems through the years, bad enough to require surgery, and riding definitely helps strengthen and loosen the muscles in that area; physical therapists have been known to prescribe horseback riding for that very purpose.

Even general practitioners are prescribing time outdoors to help improve their patients’ health.2 Being advised to spend 20 minutes a day soaking up the sun to correct a vitamin D deficiency is not uncommon, while some doctors are even writing “go to the park” prescriptions to help with conditions such as anxiety.

For my last birthday, some friends and I went on a long hike, dogs in tow, in Angeles National Forest. Forget designer footwear or the latest gadget; I always recommend giving a loved one (or yourself) the gift of the great outdoors. This month, state and federal parks across the country will host events to celebrate everything from trail hiking to camping.

Check out the Great Outdoors Month website for events in your area at http://www.greatoutdoorsmonth.org/#!about/ci0u. Have fun out there!



  1. 1. “Immerse Yourself in a Forest for Better Health,” New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website (May 2016), http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/90720.html
  2. 2. National Park Service website (May 2016), https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/healthy-events.htm