Boomers Play Outside More at 41%: Why and So What?

Madelaine Weiss
4 min readJul 11

Table of Contents

Who Is More Likely to Spend > 1 Hour/Day Outdoors?

Americans typically spend ~ 5 hours/week playing outdoors (e.g., exercising, sports, taking a walk or a swim…)

Boomers are the most likely to spend more than an hour/day outdoors (41%) contrasted with Gen X’ers (33%) and Millennials (31%).

In other words, the younger the adults, the less time they spent, on average, outdoors — unless they were Parents who, with their children, spent as much time outside as Boomers.

Why would that be? And, why would that matter? For why that might be, we could speculate that:

  1. Childhood experiences: Boomers may have grown up in times and places where outdoor play was safer, more accessible, and less organized — leaving them with an ease and preference for more spontaneous outdoor play.
  2. Technological advancements: Boomers had fewer technological distractions (such as video games, computers, the internet) to keep them indoors.
  3. Work-life balance: Boomers, many of whom are winding down at work, may simply have more time to enjoy activities outside of the home.

We are, of course, dealing in generalization and speculation here, but there are benefits to being outdoors that we might pause to consider more than we have.

What’s So Great About Playing Outdoors?

Outdoor play has been found to improve fitness, relieve stress, enhance social interactions all of which have been found to be great for our overall well-being.

Click here for an abundance of research showing the benefits of nature for short and long term physical and mental health.

So, there are the benefits of nature and, separate but related, there are the benefits of play — taken together a kind of bundling to make the most of our precious time.

But play is easier said than done for many because we, as a culture, tend to dismiss it for adults as unproductive. It can also make us feel guilty enough to want avoid it, and then we say it is because we do not have time. So, let’s look at a counterargument for that.

From Working Smarter’s Joe Robinson:

When you’re stressed, the brain’s activated emotional hub, the amygdala, suppresses positive mood, fueling a self-perpetuating cycle of negativity. Play can break you out of that straitjacket. It’s the brain’s reset button. This tonic we write off as trivial is a crucial engine of well-being. In its low-key, humble way, play yanks grownups out of their purposeful sleepwalk to reveal the animating spirit within. You are alive, and play will prove it to you.”

Anybody who has ever suffered burnout will tell you how practical and serious it is to bring energy back to life — at work and at home

In fact, Harvard researchers found that play not only relieves stress but improves brain function, stimulates the mind, boosts creativity, improves relationships, builds energy and resistance to disease.

But maybe you haven’t played in a long time, and don’t even know what it would be for you. After all, there are so many kinds of play:

  • Object (basketball)
  • Locomotor (running)
  • Social (pretending)

Some play doesn’t look like play at all. Take imagination. When we have a problem on our hands and may ask ourselves what someone we admire might do in a similar situation, is that not a form of playing up there in the brain.

In fact, more than a few people I know spend most of what could be the best parts of their lives up there in the brain, more as spectators up in the stands than players out there on the field of their very own lives.

These folks spend time planning trips they never take, imagining love they won’t go out to find, wishing for their dream career from the desk they will not dare to leave. It’s a fine place to start, with that glimmer in the mind’s eye about how we dream things to be. But perhaps not the best place to be stuck.

Especially when we could go outside, so what’s in the way?

What’s In The Way?

What’s in the way for those who don’t or won’t play outside, or even at all, as much as they could? Fear? Fear of looking like a fool? Fear of making a mistake? Fear of being undeserving? Fear of work undone? You name it. Name it for yourself.

So, for example, when the spoiler in you says ‘You have work to do’ you may follow that with something like ‘Yes, I do, and it will be there for me when I’m done refreshing my mind to do it better’.

Or when the spoiler says ‘You will look like a fool out there on those roller skates,” you can agree again with something like ‘Yes, you are right, I might, but how I look is irrelevant for a physical activity aimed to improve how I think and feel.’

And for anyone having trouble figuring out what’s the best play for you, you may take a magic carpet ride back to your childhood, and picture yourself playing at what you loved to do.

What was it for you then? How do you dream about playing now? How about to start: One time a day designated just for play? Outdoors, even better. Practice, practice, practice, see what happens…and let us know.

Warm Wishes,


Photo by Freepik

Madelaine Weiss

Licensed Psychotherapist, Board Certified Executive, Career, Life Coach. LICSW, MBA, BCC