Great Outdoors Lab Releases New Study on Health Benefits of Getting Outside


Contact: April Thomas, 206.321.3850,

Washington, D.C.– This week, a study from the Great Outdoors Lab was published in Emotion, a journal of the American Psychological Association. This peer-reviewed study offers unprecedented insight into the positive health impacts of getting outdoors, using new scientific methodologies not previously employed, including day-of neuroendocrine measures for participants in a rafting trip, as well as facial analysis based on Go-Pro video footage of trip participants. The study found conclusive evidence that getting outdoors improves physical, mental, and social well-being and that the emotion of awe experienced in nature is an important mechanism driving these effects.

The Great Outdoors Lab is a partnership between Sierra Club Outdoors, UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, and REI. The Lab is conducting a longitudinal study on how whitewater rafting and being outdoors impacts the mental and physical well-being of veterans and youth from underserved communities.


“Those of us who lead trips into the outdoors for veterans and youth from underserved communities know that getting outside improves both mental and physical health,” said Rob Vessels, Director of Sierra Club Military Outdoors. “We know it from experience, and from watching the transformations that take place when someone experiences the awe of nature for the first time. Now, thanks to our partnership with the Great Outdoors Lab, we have the science to prove it.


“Humanity is engaged in the large-scale destruction of the very thing most likely to heal us: the wonder and majesty of our natural environment. Decision makers on public health and on protection of our environment should take these findings very seriously and act quickly to increase access for all to the incredible healing benefits of nature.”




The Great Outdoors Lab


The Sierra Club and the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley created The Great Outdoors Lab (GOL) in 2014. The GOL is on the cutting edge of evidenced based research on the cognitive and physical benefits of immersion in nature. To date The GOL has focused on understanding how being outdoors can be used as a mental and physical health intervention for individuals in communities vulnerable to challenges brought on by living with poverty and mental and physical trauma. We believe, and our early research has borne out, that time outdoors can be a successful adjunct therapy to support more traditional health care. In this vein, time outdoors could save significant costs by lowering expenditures on medications and increasing productivity through an increased ability to concentrate at work and school while also supporting critical thinking development.

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit