Let’s Go Out and Play: Summer Outdoor Activities that Improve Psychological Well-Being


by Lyndsay Flagel 

Around this time, the sun is out and we’re hitting the outdoors, not the gym. Alright, maybe the gym and outdoors. Exercise in general can improve mental health: mood, positivity, self-esteem; but exercising in nature, known to some as “green exercise,” takes the connection between mental health and exercise to another level of psychological benefits. Even five minutes a day on a gloomy day, as we so often have in West Michigan, will improve your psychological well-being.

Connect your inner wellness with nature this summer. Grab the whole family, your bikes, kayaks, hiking gear, swimsuit, or fishing; the options are endless during West Michigan’s summer! Let’s not forget Father’s Day. Hear where Dad wants to go this year and enjoy his activities.


Grab your bike or tennis shoes and play outside on the trails surrounding Grand Rapids. The Fred Meijer M-6 Trail runs for nine miles, just south of Grand Rapids, parallel to M-6.

Kent Trails start outside John Ball Zoo and thread into the city, over the Grand River, and back to rural landscape.

Outside Millennium Park, outdoor ventures can include walking, biking, cycling, and even roller blading across this 20-mile, multi-purposed trail.

Want to go to the beach? Hop on the 25-mile Musketawa Trail. It starts just northwest of Grand Rapids.

Golf or Fishing? Both?

According to Field & Stream, Grand Rapids kicks bass.

While golf may not exactly be relaxing, it can be a leisure activity for the family to do together. Enjoy the sun and family time. Learn about different courses around the Grand Rapids area and pick one you haven’t been to yet.

Did you know that Grand Rapids was name the sixth best fishing city by Field & Stream Magazine? Fishing on Lake Michigan is an obvious choice for a relaxing outing. However, there are several inland lakes and rivers that offer a more quaint experience. Head north of town to Rockford to catch brown trout. East of Grand Rapids, in Lowell, hook and line smallmouth bass. Searching for bluegills? Go no farther than Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids.

Keeping Active

Exercising or staying in shape doesn’t have to mean going to the gym and breaking a sweat. Keep your heart rate up with activities you love and you will be maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Walking two or three miles five days a week is an alternative to exercising vigorously five days a week.

Taking it to the beach is a great choice for keeping active outdoors with the family. Most beaches on the lakeshore provide volleyball courts. Grab a ball and friends jump and run in the sand. You’ll have fun and feel like you didn’t work out!

On your next beach excursion, chose a lakeshore beach with sand dunes. Climb and climb to feel the burn in your legs. The run down the dunes is worth it, though!

Let’s not forget going to the boat landing, kayaking or canoeing through the channel to get to the lake. This is a great exercise for your arms.

All of these activities are fun, active and outdoors. You’re really able to accomplish a lot while playing outside. You spend time with your family and friends, burn calories, and improve your mental health state, which isn’t an easy feat in the winter months. A final note: remember, while out in the sun, ensure you’re protecting your skin with sunscreen. Hiking under the covers of trees still exposes the skin to harmful rays.


Lyndsay is a Communications Specialist and a writer and editor for Holland Hospital. She spends her free time writing or watching Netflix.


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