optoutsideToday, popular outdoor gear store REI has closed its doors and paid its employees to get outside. It’s also urging consumers to spend the day outside and no, camping out on the sidewalk in front of Best Buy all night doesn’t count.  It’s a smart business move that’s gained a lot of press over the past few months. Their website is still taking orders today, but a note reminds visitors that orders won’t be processed until tomorrow since, really, no one is there. I’m guessing REI didn’t have a huge Black Friday following to start with, and any visitors they’ve lost today have probably been gained back two-fold by all the press surrounding this bold move.

To me, it’s the symbolism of #OptOutside that’s most important. More and more Americans are being made aware of an epidemic. We are stuck inside. We are comfortable inside; we are too comfortable inside. The Nature Conservancy reports that only 10% of American kids report spending time outdoors every day with 80% of kids saying it was uncomfortable to spend time outside. Similarly, the National Wildlife Federation reports that the average American kid spends as little as 30 minutes engaged in unstructured play outdoors, compared to 7 hours in front of an electronic screen. That’s not a typo – 7 HOURS. It’s no wonder that our health as a nation is plummeting. We are more out of shape and more stressed out than ever before.

So the real victory in #OptOutside isn’t that so far 1.1 million people have pledged to spend the day outside. It’s that millions more are being made aware of an issue that is plaguing our country. My request to fellow #365Outsiders today is to not just get outside, but bring someone with you who might not otherwise go. It’s one thing to opt outside on your own. It’s another to spread the love.