It seems although Generation Z is often labeled as a tech-savvy group preoccupied with phones and laptops, certain individuals look to nature and outdoor activities as a way of escaping a technology-obsessed society.
Recreational activities such as kayaking, hiking, camping and fishing are often outlets for students to participate in outside the new normal world of social media full of likes and comments.
“I feel like the tech and social media we use today takes away from our generation from being active,” senior Mandi Jaffe said. “People are less likely to be active when they have millions of other things to do with the help of technology.”
According to Healthline, studies have linked the use of social media to depression, anxiety, poorer sleep quality, lower self-esteem, inattention, and hyperactivity–often in teens and adolescents, which can be reduced and prevented with outdoor activities.
“I feel like outdoor activities benefit people’s health both mental and physical. It’s great to be able to take a mental break and be able to hike without thinking,” Jaffe said.
As stated in Harvard Health Publishing, physical activity can help reduce stress and prevent certain cases of depression and can reduce anxiety.
“Fishing has allowed me to gain knowledge and strength unobtainable to those who haven’t experienced it. The sport teaches you to have patience and discipline as well as self control,” freshman Nick Collela said. “Fishing may not be as physical or popular as sports like basket ball, but can be even more beneficial.”
At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, certain individuals put down their cell phones to enjoy mother nature.
“My favorite outdoor activity is kayaking,” Jaffe said. “I love the thrill of going through rapids and experiencing the river life. Being able to judge the river lines, doing tricks and rolls is extremely exciting to me.”
Junior Anna Crean goes backpacking during her summers. Through her experiences, she has explored places such as Northern California and the Pacific Northwest by foot.
“It’s a huge challenge pushing yourself to hike for hours with a bunch of weight in your back, but once you’re done it’s the most rewarding feeling because you get to stay and beautiful secluded areas that not many people have seen,” Crean said.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research, spending just 20 minutes in a park even if there is no physical activity being performed is enough to improve one’s well-being.
“I like to be out in nature with fresh air. It just makes me feel good, biology teacher Adeena Teres said. “It’s beautiful and I find it enjoyable and relaxing. Right now I do a lot of running. Every Saturday morning I run down by the beach and then I like going to parks and bicycling.”
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is vital because it can help lower one’s chance of getting diseases later on in life such as heart disease, strokes and type 2 diabetes. Physical activities like walking, running, swimming and biking has numerous benefits.
As specified in Harvard Health Publishing, these activities can help the body burn calories instead of storing them as body fat, keep blood sugar levels more balanced and in a normal range, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, keep bones and muscles strong and prevent serious health problems that can arise from being overweight or obese.
South Florida is accommodating when it comes to outdoor activities. There are numerous hiking trails by the Everglades, such as the Atlantic Trail Entrance to Conservation Levee Greenway and many lakes to go fishing on.
“I think people would appreciate the environment more and do more things to protect it if people became more active outdoors,” Teres said. “Now, everyone seems to be on their phone or inside watching a movie and are losing that touch with nature.”
This story was originally published in the December 2019 Eagle Eye print edition.