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Get outdoors to destress

Step outside, take a short walk or just get a breath of fresh air.

Hey, you with your nose to the screen. It’s time to disconnect, get outside and take a breather.

With finals week looming and the holidays just around the corner, life can get stressful.

“This time of year can feel overwhelming,” said Dorothy (Dart) Schmalz, associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism in the College of Health. But there are so many simple ways to destress. Step outside and take a short walk or just get a breath of fresh air—as long as it is fresh.

Countless studies show that taking an outdoor break benefits your body and mind. After clearing out the cobwebs with some time outside, you’ll head into finals feeling a greater sense of focus. Plus, it can increase motivation and productivity when you go back to your studies.

According to Schmalz, depression and anxiety weigh heavily on younger people, thanks in part to the pandemic and pressures of social media. Getting out on campus or in the neighborhood is a great way to connect with others and rekindle relationships.

Get outdoors and improve your health

“For many of us, walking or doing other outdoor activities is a social opportunity, a great way to make new friends and reconnect with old ones,” Schmalz said. “The university has many partnerships and programs that teach you about new recreational activities and finding others with the same interests.”

Utah is a perfect place to get outside to recreate or just enjoy the scenery. Salt Lake has many walkable neighborhoods and local parks, big and small. For example, Red Butte Garden—free for U students with their UCard—is on the edge of campus and offers a beautiful stroll through nature.

“Take advantage of the many parks and trails in and around Salt Lake City,” said Schmalz. “And if you’re an outdoor sports enthusiast, Utah is like a giant playground, with activities and places to enjoy year-round.”

If you are glued to your screen and don’t feel like you have time to break away, reconsider. Give yourself 30 minutes in nature and you’ll be surprised how refreshed and motivated you’ll feel when you get back to studying.

With so many opportunities available to U students, making space for the outdoors in your schedule has never been easier. Below are just a few options to get you outside.

Outdoor Adventures

Whether you’re an outdoor sports enthusiast or a first-timer, the Outdoor Adventures program, offered through Campus Recreation Services, will help you get out and enjoy a variety of recreational activities with professional instructors. From rock climbing and mountain biking to skiing and rafting, you’ll experience some of the natural wonders and adventures Utah has to offer.


U students who want to get away from the classroom and still earn academic credit can try U-Explore. Enroll in one of 90 intensive, short-duration, two-credit courses taught by professional and experienced instructors.

Healthy Parks, Healthy People

Want to learn more about the connections between nature and physical, mental and environmental health? There’s a class for that called Healthy Parks, Healthy People. Sign up for the spring semester seminar, listed under PRT 5995/6995.

Park Rx

The U is proud to partner with Park Rx, an initiative started by the Salt Lake County Health Department in 2019. Park Rx’s mission is to prescribe parks and other recreational settings to prevent chronic conditions; improve physical, social and mental health; and promote wellness for all Utahns.