The project “The health and well-being impacts of outdoor recreation – study on urban youth” is led by Academy Research Fellow Riikka Puhakka and funded by the Academy of Finland (2019–2024). Urbanization and modernization have led to changes in western ways of life, which has also resulted in negative impacts on health and well-being. First, our way of life has become physically less active. More and more young people suffer from obesity which may lead to chronic diseases. Second, allergies, asthma, and autoimmune diseases have increased. Diminishing contact with nature has reduced our exposure to microbes needed for the natural development of human immune systems.

The aim of this multidisciplinary project is to study how interacting with nature affects the health and well-being of young urban people. The project studies various outdoor activities to identify attractive and efficient solutions to increase the opportunities to gain health and well-being benefits from interaction with nature. The project integrates research on the perceived well-being and physical health in a novel way. The research questions are crucial since physical activity and obesity in childhood have a significant tendency to continue into adulthood, and exposure to microbes during childhood has a significant effect on the function of the immune system.