Tuesday, November 30, 2010

AFWA Releases a Literature Review on the Benefits of Outdoor Skills to Health, Learning and Lifestyle

The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies today released a white paper Benefits of Outdoor Skills to Health, Learning and Lifestyle: A Literature Review documenting the contributions of outdoor skills and wildlife-related outdoor education to health, learning and lifestyle in general and fishing and hunting participation in particular.

Research into the benefits of outdoor skills education highlights the valuable contribution they make to personal health and wellbeing. When young people are able to connect with the outdoors regularly, the positive outcomes are profound. They are happier, healthier from the physical exercise, effects of attention-deficit disorder are reduced and they score higher on standardized tests when natural environments are integrated into school curricula.

Outdoor skills activities such as hunting and fishing provide opportunities for the connection of individuals with nature (the natural environment), direct connection with other people (interpersonal) and with themselves (personal). Specifically, the benefits of these connections lie in the strength and placement of these connections from the leisure context to everyday lives.

This comprehensive report draws on research from adult learning, education (i.e., adventure, boating, conservation, experiential, hunting, fishing, outdoor, physical and wilderness), health, leisure, recreation, sport, therapy, and at-risk-youth to highlight the evidence of the positive contributions of outdoor skills education on hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. The white paper includes abstracts for 99 documents; highlights some best practice outdoor skills education programs delivered by state fish and wildlife agencies and other partners; and offers recommendations for consideration when developing new or updating existing outdoor skills programs.

Highlighted Research Findings – The Benefits of Taking It Outdoors:

  • A growing body of studies suggests that contact with nature is as important to children as good nutrition and adequate sleep: time spent outdoors correlates with increased physical activity and fitness in children; exposure to green space reduces crime, increases general wellbeing and ability to focus; children as young as five have shown a significant reduction in the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) when they are engaged in outdoor activities in natural settings. Research indicates that there could be reductions in crime as a result of outdoor education.

  • Interpersonal and intrapersonal skills developed through engaging in nature-based activities in meaningful ways represent some of the main benefits of outdoor skills education.

  • The benefits that result from participating in outdoor activities can be enhanced through appropriate facility provision and access to natural resources as well as the design of outdoor skills education programs that work towards specific objectives.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that children who are more active outdoors and hang out outdoors tend to engage in greater physical activity as youth and later as adults.

Overall, the literature implies the need to adopt a broader-based conception of health from a holistic ecological perspective that moves beyond human physical and mental health to one that includes familial, communal, national, international and global ecological health. Active living is crucial to healthy lifestyles and leads to potentially greater participation in fishing and hunting.

The report was developed by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ North American Conservation Education Strategy under contract with Cottrell & Associates: Environmental Consulting. Designed by experts from state fish and wildlife agencies, the North American Conservation Education (CE) Strategy delivers unified, research-based Core Concepts and messages about fish and wildlife conservation, translated into K-12 academic standards to shape students’ environmental literacy, stewardship and outdoor skills. The Core Concepts identify what every citizen should know, feel and do related to fish and wildlife conservation.

Funding for the report was provided by the Multistate Conservation Grant Program, which is supported through special excise taxes on hunting, shooting, archery and angling equipment, a tax on boating fuels and license fees paid by America’s hunters and anglers.

The white paper can be downloaded from