Sask. families take on challenge to spend 1,000 hours outside in a year

The 1,000 hours outside movement is a challenge that motivates people to start prioritizing spending time outside. Some families in Saskatchewan are giving it a try in 2023.

Proponents say challenge promotes physical and mental health

Father, mother, two boys sit on a bench surrounded by snow
Holly Crompton and her two sons are aiming to spend 1,000 hours outside together in 2023. (Submitted by Holly Crompton)

No matter how cold it gets in Regina, Holly Crompton makes sure to leave the cozy warmth of her own home to spend time outside with her two sons.

Having a toddler and a newborn with nowhere to go during the long days of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns was challenging for Crompton. Taking up the goal of spending 1,000 hours outside in a year with them made it easier.

"Being creative in finding ways to get outside and do things with them was [helpful] for my sanity," Crompton said.

Crompton and her sons missed their goal by fewer than 100 hours the first year she tried the challenge.

In 2022, the trio reached 1,000 hours outside. They plan to do the same this year.

"In a place where we complain about it being cold and being too hot, it makes you appreciate the weather on the really nice days," Crompton said. "I hope that it would also bring my kids up to appreciate all the seasons and being outside."

Two kids smiling in the snow
Crompton says her sons Nolan, left, and Kian, right, enjoy being outside. (Submitted by Holly Crompton)

Less screen time, more green time

Spending 1,000 hours a year outside is now a global movement. It all started with one family in southeastern Michigan back in 2011.

Ginny Yurich remembers struggling with the overwhelming needs of being a parent of three children under three years old. She was told bringing them outside could help — so she organized a picnic with another mother at a nearby park.

Three kids having a picnic
Three of Yurich's children having a picnic. (Submitted by Ginny Yurich)

She was amazed by the results. The kids played the entire time and fell asleep on the drive home.

She later read that kids should be playing outside daily for three hours a day. 

"That comes out to about 1,000 hours a year, but it also matches the average amount of screen time that American children get in a year at the time," Yurich said. "I came up with the idea to try to bring back balance to childhood between real and virtual."

Yurich noted that bad weather can make it hard to go outside, so it's important to make up for lost time on nice days.

The Yurich family, which now consists of five children, first completed the challenge in 2013 and they've done it every year since.

Family poses for photo on a rock.
The full Yurich family on a hike. (Submitted by Ginny Yurich)

Yurich now runs an Instagram account with more than 500,000 followers from all over the world. It showcases how spending 1,000 hours outside can improve your life. She also runs a blog, wrote a book and hosts a podcast.

"It's beyond what I could have ever imagined," Yurich said.

"I get dozens and dozens of notes on a daily basis saying this changed my life, which is not surprising because it changed mine."

Tracking charts are available on the 1,000 hours outside website to keep people trying the challenge motivated.

"As our kids get older and a little less needy, I don't think I would pursue the time outside as much," Yurich said. "But I'm so glad I do [the challenge] because it helps me get outside and I just feel like my life is much more full and it relieves a lot of stress."

WATCH| Less screen time, more green time as spending 1,000 hours a year outside becomes now a global movement:

Less screen time, more green time as spending 1,000 hours a year outside becomes now a global movement

3 months ago
Duration 2:09
Sask. family takes on challenge to spend 1,000 hours outside in a year

How does the challenge help your physical and mental health?

Dr. Melissa Lem founded PaRx, Canada's national nature prescription program. She thinks the challenge is great.

"Being outside is one of the best things you can do for your health," Lem said.

Dr. Melissa Lem, a Vancouver-based family physician, has touted the benefits of 'nature prescriptions' for more than a decade. Now she leads PaRx, an organization that aims to provide health-care professionals with information to prescribe the outdoors to patients. (Submitted by Melissa Lem)

Lem said spending time in nature can build a healthier immune system, reduce the risk of diabetes and improve cardiovascular health.

She said there are also studies about how being outside can help mental health.

"Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce rates of anxiety, depression, ADHD and of course stress, which is something a lot of us are dealing with right now," Lem said. 

Jon Cadang has struggled with his mental health since childhood, but he says spending time in nature proved to be a powerful treatment against his depression. He's not alone, says Vancouver-based physician Dr. Melissa Lem, the director of PaRx, an evidence-based nature prescription program. They talk to Back to the Land host Duncan McCue about getting outside, and why it's so good for us. Back to the Land is a four-part series about people who are (re)connecting with nature and the outdoors.

The 1,000 hours outside challenge won't only benefit people, Lem said.

"Spending time outside in nature is also really good for the planet, because research shows that people who are more connected to nature are more likely to do more to protect it."

Saskatoon mother trying to get other families outside

Erin McCrea is trying to spend 1,000 hours outside with her six-year-old son Anthony for the second time in 2023.

"Summer was the best. We could fill eight hours in a day. We'll do almost anything outside," McCrea said. "The winter was a lot slower obviously."

McCrea said the goal is to spend even more time outside in 2023. Even on the frigid days, the pair would manage to get outside for a bit to do creative activities like making snow volcanoes or dumping water over their hair to see it freeze.

Mother and son smile for camera on a beach
The pair spent 1,000 hours outside in one year and two months. (Submitted by Erin McCrea)

McCrea writes for Family Fun Saskatoon detailing outdoor adventures you can do with your family in the region. She hopes her posts can inspire other families to get outside. The pair aims to go every place McCrea writes about.

She said the challenge has been great for her son.

"The second we're outside he forgets all about any sort of screens and just wants to see everything."


Will McLernon is an online journalist with CBC Saskatchewan. If you have a tip or a story idea, send him an email at


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