Outdoor Activity

The Puget Sound region is highly valued for its nature-based outdoor opportunities. The Outdoor Activity Vital Sign tells us about people’s access to and participation in nature-based recreation and work. Whether for recreational or occupational purposes, participation in nature-based outdoor activities is beneficial in multiple ways. Physical movement, breathing fresher air, absorbing vitamin D, and clearing one’s thoughts all contribute to improved human wellbeing. Nature-based outdoor activities often include spending time with others as well and research has shown that positive social interactions are one of the greatest contributors to human wellbeing.

Photo credit: Ingrid Taylar.

Key Vital Sign Messages

  • Outdoor activities have mental and physical health benefits for people, often with minimal requirements for special equipment and skills. Outdoor activities also have several economic benefits.
  • COVID-19 and its impacts have made residents’ connections to Puget Sound even clearer. Residents’ use and reliance on Puget Sound’s parks and green spaces as safe places for recreation and relaxation during COVID-19 highlights now more than ever the value of this place among residents.
  • Not all communities have equal access to quality parks and trails. Furthermore, a history of discriminatory and largely anti-Black practices excluded people of color from the benefits of public spaces and some continue to feel unsafe and unwelcome in the outdoors.
  • King County and other regional leaders mapped disparities in access to open space and developed a framework for creating a more equitable distribution of open space throughout King County.
  • Residents also enjoy the many marine beaches around Puget Sound, which generally have good water quality conditions. This is due in part to work the BEACH program has done to identify and correct many local bacteria problems that would otherwise result in beach closures.
  • Though only a small fraction of Puget Sound residents answered that their work involves spending time outdoors, nature-based work is more important in some places, such as San Juan County.

Contributing Partners