Walking Our Way to A Healthier Future With Come Alive Outside

Posted October 01, 2021

Over the Summer, 20+ RELiON employees participated in our nonprofit partner Come Alive Outside’s 100 Miles, 100 Days walking challenge. This year's 100 Miles, 100 Days walking challenge was extremely successful with 3,088 participants from 44 different states and Canada. This was RELiON’s first time participating in this challenge and in honor of making it through the full 100 days, we’re sharing more about Come Alive Outside and its mission. We caught up with Arwen Turner, the Executive Director of Come Alive Outside, to learn more about how they got started and the impact they are having today.

How was Come Alive Outside created?

“The Come Alive Outside initiative was started by Jim Paluch in 2010, in response to this Richard Louv’s messaging in the book ‘“Last Child in the Woods” regarding the sedentary, indoor lifestyle that is contributing to a multitude of adverse effects in our society. Partnering with landscape professionals across North America, Come Alive Outside held Design Challenge and Green Street Challenge programs in communities across North America. In 2014, Jim Paluch’s son Andy Paluch transformed the initiative into a non-profit and began the process of creating a more sustained and focused regional impact.

In January 2017, Come Alive Outside launched its first Regional Chapter in Rutland, Vermont to begin producing long-term community programming. Come Alive Outside added outdoor passports, Mile-A-Day, and ParkRX programming to its core programs and began to collect data that demonstrated the impact that spending outside has on physical and mental health.

Today, Come Alive Outside is serving 25,000 children and adults a year across North America with its programming. The organization has shifted and grown in the last 11 years, but the goal remains the same—Come Alive Outside connects people to health and wellness benefits of the outdoors.”

Relion Team Member Come Alive Outside Challenge

Why is time outside so important?

“Being active outdoors and connecting with nature improves health and wellness. Experiencing nature has been proven to decrease anxiety and stress. Individuals who participate in more outdoor recreation are more physically active than those who do not. Connecting to nature increases self-esteem and can provide individuals with a stronger feeling of social inclusion. Simply put, Nature is just good medicine.”

How is Come Alive Outside addressing the physical and mental health crisis facing Americans right now?

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession has negatively affected our communities’ mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and chronic disease.

In 2020, after the survey results of our spring Mile-A-Day walking challenge showed that 100% of the participants reported an increase in mental well-being, we made the decision to find a way to make this free program available to anyone in North America. At the time, it seemed like a simple thing that we could do to try to inspire folks to get moving outdoors for wellness during such a stressful and uncertain time.

We also created adult outdoor passport passports for the first time in 2020. Until then, this program had been focused on school-age children. Focusing this program in the summer on worksite employees and then in the winter on individuals in substance use recovery as well as worksite employees, we were able to see that the mental health benefits of these programs were impactful across different levels of need. In fact, 98% of our Winter Wellness passport participants reported both a decrease in stress and anxiety and an increase in physical activity.”

How did Mile-A-Day become an event? Why a walking challenge?

“Several years ago, in Rutland County, Vermont an organization called Rutland Area Physical Activity Coalition (RAPAC) created the 100 Miles in 100 Days walking challenge. The challenge was aimed at helping folks create a daily habit of movement outdoors. Getting out and moving daily is a wonderful way to relieve stress and 1 Mile is an attainable goal for many people. Come Alive Outside took over the program when we created our regional chapter in Rutland, VT in 2017. Since then, the challenge has become so popular that we now have 3 Mile-A-Day challenges a year, a 30 Miles in 30 Days Challenge in the Spring, 100 Miles in 100 Days in the Summer, and 50 Miles in 50 Days in the Fall. We have folks who set a goal of a Mile-a-Day and we have folks who walk much more. It is great because it is a personal challenge, and we have high retention in participation.

Our Mile-A-Day participation has grown from 1100 people a year in 2019 Vermont, to over 6000 and counting this year from all over North America.

We are in the process of creating a mobile app for our Mile-A-Day program to support its growth and make it more user-friendly!”

100 Mile 100 Day Challenge Limitless Blue

How can people get involved with Come Alive Outside other than the walking challenges?

“Participating and encouraging others to participate in our walking challenges and programs is very helpful.

We are always looking for new partners and new communities where we can bring or programs. If folks are willing to make connections, that is how we grow. We are always looking for new places to bring our outdoor passport program.

Finally, donating to the organization is a great way to support the work we do. All of our community health programs are free to the participants, and we fundraise to make that possible. We currently have a fun fundraising campaign called the Come Alive Outside Leaf Peeping Society where for a $40 donation, you receive a long-sleeve CAO Leaf Peeping Society shirt, the official Leaf Peeping Society Activity Guide, a box of Vermont Country Store Cookie Buttons, and a mini bottle of Baird Farm Maple Syrup. “

Do you have any tips for people who struggle to get outside and be active during the day?

  1. Set small attainable goals and celebrate them. A stroll around the block or sitting outside and breathing for five minutes have a lot of impact and we can all squeeze them into our busy schedules.
  2. Choose the outdoor activities that you enjoy. Hiking is not for everyone, but maybe you like riding your bike, foraging for mushrooms, or walking around looking at public art.
  3. Have an accountability buddy. We find that people that sign up for our programs with a friend are more likely to stick with them.
  4. Change your perception of what is considered outdoorsy. Being outdoorsy just means you go outdoors. You don’t have to be decked out in Patagonia and on top of Everest to be a nature-lover, you just have to actually go outside.”

Over the 100 days, the RELiON team was able to walk over 2,000 miles and spend countless hours outside. The RELiON team enjoyed challenging our limits over the summer with this challenge, and we look forward to more to come. To learn more about Come Alive Outside visit their website.