SPENDING time outdoors is the key to happier, healthier and more confident children, however, only one in five of them regularly play outside, says leading youth charity YHA.

The charity says that the opportunity to have adventures in the outdoors is vitally important to developing young people’s confidence, resilience and ambition for the future. Studies also show that just five minutes of ‘green exercise’ can improve a child’s mental wellbeing.

To help more young people benefit from the transformational power of travel and adventure, YHA has launched a new campaign - The Adventure Effect, to inspire young people and their families to get outdoors.

“If we want to raise children to be healthy physically, mentally, socially and emotionally, we must look at the experiences they’re having during childhood," says Professor of Developmental Psychology Karen Pine. "Outside, spontaneous experiences in nature are critical to their development. Being unable to get outside for a prolonged period can lead to stress and depression, which sadly besets many people in our society today. Time outdoors spent having adventures in nature helps to build resilience – which is our ability to bounce back in life. This is an incredibly important skill.”

To highlight the impact on people of not having the opportunity to access travel and the outdoors, YHA confined the professional adventurer and author Alastair Humphreys to a room for three days. In contrast, the film also follows five young people during their first trip to the Lake District and demonstrates their personal transformation during that time. The thought-provoking social experiment has been documented in The Adventure Effect film (www.yha.org.uk/adventureeffect).

The film charts Alastair’s increasing frustration and unhappiness at having the opportunity for adventure removed from him. On day two of the experiment he admits to ‘feeling low’. "Being inside the room was a big learning experience for me," he says. "Three days seems like nothing but when the ability to go outside whenever you want, and the mental stimulation that goes with it, is taken away from you, it is a huge shock. I was really surprised to discover I use my phone too much and use it to fill in any quieter times during the day. Adventure is as much about your attitude as anything else. Be curious and seize the opportunities that are available to you.”

YHA has 150 locations throughout the UK offering affordable access to adventure for everyone, regardless of age. Youth hostels are located in National Parks, coastal resorts, towns, cities and rural areas of England and Wales.


1. Don’t just talk about it. Do it.

2. Do something simple and small, like going for a walk in your local woods or head up a hill.

3. Make sure you’re warm and prepared for bad weather with suitable waterproof clothing.

4. Take friends or family with you so you can share the experience and encourage each other.

5. Making the most of the outdoors shouldn’t be about pushing yourself and feeling miserable. Go at your own pace and have fun.


Ten free places to visit in the North-East

• Cycling in Langdon Beck – Local roads offer great cycling for all abilities for anyone who wants to enjoy stunning views over the North Pennines landscape.

• Vindolanda – This Roman fort is just south of Hadrian’s Wall and is great for learning more about the local history. Pop into The Sill Landscape Discover centre to learn more about the area.

• Climbing in Edmundbyers – Simonside (near Rothbury) has three fine crags, the northern scarps of the moors to the north of Rothbury offer brilliant climbing.

• The Pennine Way – The Pennine Way has something to offer every walker. The 270-mile walk stretched from from the Peak District to the Scottish Borders.

• Ashgill Force – This waterfall has a spectacular 50ft drop into a pool in the wooded valley below.

• Go Gruffalo hunting in Kielder Forest.

• Talkin Tarn Country Park – An ideal place for water sports or a quiet stroll through the mature woodlands. Fishing and bike hire available.

• Northumberlandia – This fabulous landscape featuring the reclining form of a woman is a great adventure playground for kids and adults

• Building sandcastles and rock-pooling at Seaburn beach – you can enjoy hours of fun building sandcastles, exploring rock pools, playing ball games, throwing frisbees and flying kites. And if the moment takes you, brave a splash about in the North Sea, depending on the time of year.

• Allen Banks and Staward Gorge – Follow the trail through the labyrinth of woodland and look out for benches featuring the poems of Lawrence Hewer along the way. Reach the summerhouse where you can sit and watch the wildlife all around.