Generation Z, born in the 2000s, is used to living with technology. Digitalisation is part of their everyday lives in every way possible. The connection between people around the globe created by social media enriches and expands the world of Generation Z.

At the same time, it has been argued that children and young people are less connected with nature than they used to be. Still, today nature photographs are being eagerly shared on Instagram and spontaneous physical activity is increasing its popularity. It is now the right time to invest in green exercise and young people raised in cities and towns – for the sake of wellbeing and health promotion as well as the development of inspiring and inviting services in nature.

Three quarters of Finnish children in secondary school age do not get enough physical activity to keep them in good health. They spend less time doing physical activity than the national recommendation of one hour a day. In the same cohort, every fourth child is overweight or obese. The high price of exercising in sports clubs and the increase in screen time may lead to exclusion from physically active way of life at an early age.

Positive nature experiences as a child strengthen the person’s relationship with nature. Contact with nature supports adoption and maintenance of a physically active way of life as an adult. Studies have shown that contact with nature and green exercise support the growth and well-being of children and young people in numerous ways. Green exercise is beneficial to all – not only to inactive children and young people who do not participate in organized sport, but also to children and young people who may develop strain injuries due to excessive training. Positive nature experiences support the continuation of a physically active way of life even when an individual no longer participates in competitive sports activities.

The well-being benefits gained from nature are linked with how strong the person’s relationship with nature is. The responsibility for establishing and strengthening children and young people’s relationship with nature lies with adults – the parents, grandparents, teachers, instructor and coaches. To make green exercise a way of life, children and young people must enjoy spending time in nature. Therefore, it is important that, when engaged in outdoor activities, children and young people get a feeling of being able and capable of doing things, and being able to act spontaneously, and that they have a connection with their surroundings and people around them. At its best, green exercise significantly boosts vitality, quality of life and happiness even – and perhaps first and foremost – among the children and young people belonging to Generation Z.

By developing services that support green exercise and outdoor activities for children and young people, and accessibility and attractiveness of natural sites we can promote not only public health, but also the local economies of rural regions and business opportunities of SMEs by developing nature tourism services.

The concern over physical inactivity is worldwide, so any modes of operation or service concepts for promoting physical activity among children found effective attract even international interest. The international interest towards the health and well-being effects of natural environments is also increasing. At the same time, Finnish national parks and other nature destinations attract increasing numbers of foreign tourists. Addressing the well-being challenges among children and young people with genuine opportunities to engage in physical activity and gain experiences provided by the Finnish nature offer a significant potential for the growth of international demand for nature-based well-being services.

Project ”Moved by Nature” encouragedchildren to go out in the wild

The Health and Well-being 2025 programme of Metsähallitus, Parks & Wildlife Finland strives to promote the well-being of Finns and those travelling in Finland through three main themes:

  • from our immediate natural surroundings to national parks
  • do not be afraid of going into nature
  • getting results through communication and cooperation.

Projects aimed at welfare and health promotion are important measures for achieving this goal.

Besides implementing the health and well-being programme, the Moved by Nature project also fulfilled the common strategic goal of Parks & Wildlife Finland and Eerikkilä Sport & Outdoor Resort to increase physical activity among children and young people, the masterplan “The Nature that Moves You” of the tourism unit of Forssa region municipalities and the goals of the Tavastia regional programme for the development of nature-oriented well-being services.

Last updated 29 May 2020