Get Outdoors Day 2024: How States Are Using Outdoor Access to Boost Public Health

June 8, 2024



NCEL Point of Contact

Grant Gliniecki
Outdoor Policy Coordinator


The Outdoors as a Health Solution

For National Get Outdoors Day, NCEL is celebrating state-led efforts to enhance human health through the outdoors. Research continues to show that access to the outdoors such as public parks and urban greenspaces greatly improves the health and wellbeing of nearby human communities. With Americans spending less than 8% of their time outdoors at a time of increased social isolation and worsening mental health issues, expanding outdoor access has never been more crucial. 

  • Health Benefits of the Outdoors: Time outdoors provides people with opportunities for physical activity and social connection while increasing happiness and reducing stress, sleep deprivation, and symptoms of ADHD, PTSD, depression, and anxiety. 
  • Outdoor Equity: Marginalized communities must be centered when advancing outdoor access and equity. Communities of color are three times more likely to live in nature-deprived areas, while women, youth, and lower-income people spend the least time outdoors.  

Recognizing the connection between the outdoors and human health, NCEL’s Outdoor Working Group and other state lawmakers across the country have been increasing legislative efforts in recent years to improve outdoor access and equity. In 2024, at least 31 states and territories considered legislation to boost outdoor access and equity. Some of the year’s legislative highlights are explored below. 

NCEL Outdoor Working Group: Prioritizing Health with the Outdoors

NCEL’s Outdoor Working Group is a group of 60 lawmakers from 28 states dedicated to improving the health of their constituents through equitable outdoor access. As state lawmakers, working group members have been leading outdoor engagement policy solutions in recent years due to their ability to enact high-impact policies tailored to the specific needs of local communities and stakeholders within state boundaries. 

2024 State Action on Outdoors as Health 

2024 was another busy year for state-level outdoor engagement legislation, with 47 states and territories introducing legislation, many with a focus on leveraging the outdoors to improve the health of disproportionately impacted communities. So far in 2024, 29 states and territories have enacted bills. Below are a few examples of innovative policies introduced this year focused on using the outdoors to support health.

  • Arizona S.B.1552 would establish an Outdoor RX program providing grants for outdoor therapy programs that promote well-being through connection to nature. The program encourages innovation, healthy living, and stewardship and addresses the veteran mental health crisis by prioritizing veteran resources and veteran leadership.
  • New Hampshire S.B.387 would establish a 3-year pilot program for state park passes for recovery centers and community mental health centers. Washington, South Dakota, and other states offer free park passes through health providers to promote wellbeing through the outdoors.
  • New Jersey A.3243 would direct the Commissioner of Education to develop guidelines for outdoor education opportunities to promote youth health, mental well-being, and opportunity. 

Looking Ahead: Bringing Outdoor Health to Your State

In the coming years, Outdoor Working Group members will continue legislative efforts to increase beneficial outdoor access for the tens of millions of people in the United States who currently lack regular access to time in nature. NCEL is here to strengthen those efforts and help bring outdoor health policy to your state. Explore our new Outdoors for Physical Health fact sheet, our Outdoor Engagement Issue Page, or contact NCEL Outdoor Policy Coordinator Grant Gliniecki to learn more.