Outdoor recreation or outdoor activity is leisure pursuits engaged in the outdoors, often in natural or semi-natural settings out of town. Examples include adventure racing, backpacking, cycling, camping, canoeing, canyoning, caving, discgolf, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, kayaking, mountaineering, photography, adventure park, waterskiing, jetskiing, rock climbing, running, sailing, skiing, surfing, ATV riding, and sports. Outdoor recreation may also refer to a team sport game or practice held in an outdoor setting. When the recreation involves excitement, physical challenge, or risk, such as in rafting or climbing, it is sometimes referred to as adventure recreation.
Walking alongside towering trees lining the Avenue of the Pines in Saratoga Spa State Park, New York.
The two primary purposes for outdoor recreation are beneficial use and pleasurable appreciation.
Beneficial use is related to the physical and social rewards that goal-directed activity instills in individuals or groups. Some outdoor goal-directed activities are: backpacking, canoeing, canyoning, caving, climbing, hiking, hill walking, hunting, kayaking, and rafting. Arguably broader groupings of goal-directed outdoor activities would include water sports, snow sports, and horseback riding. Goal-directed outdoor activities are predominantly physical, though they may also be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually rewarding. The outdoors as a physical or social setting may meet the needs of physical health, self-sufficiency, risk-taking, the building of social ties including teambuilding, and the needs of achievement such as practicing, enhancing and challenging skills, testing stamina and endurance, and seeking adventure or excitement. The outdoors can be an environment in which people “show what they can do”.
Pleasurable appreciation encourages experiences of being let in on nature’s show. Enhancement of inner perceptual and/or spiritual life may be experienced through outdoor activities and outdoor-related activities such as nature study, aesthetic contemplation, meditation, painting, photography, archeological or historical research, and indigenous culture among others. These activities may also be physically rewarding.
Many people in modern civilizations believe that the value of nature is found only in its utilitarian value. They would discount the inner perceptual and/or spiritual benefits of the “intrinsic value of nature” that may be experienced during pleasurable appreciation.
Outdoor activities may also be pursued for the purposes of finding peace in nature, enjoying life, and relaxing. They are alternatives to expensive forms of tourism. Outdoor activities are also frequently used as a medium in education and teambuilding.
University Outdoor Recreation programs are becoming more popular in the United States. Universities often offer indoor rock climbing walls, equipment rental, ropes courses and trip programming. A few universities give degrees in adventure recreation, which aim to teach graduates how to run a business in the field of adventure recreation. Along with hands-on training on activities included in adventure recreation, basic courses needed for any business, such as accounting, are required to obtain a degree.