Blog Post

Insight: The Hidden Health Benefits of Utah’s Natural Playground

By: Gracie Capps and Jennifer Leaver

Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect an institutional position of the Gardner Institute. We hope the opinions shared contribute to the marketplace of ideas and help people as they formulate their own INFORMED DECISIONS™.

Utah is often called “nature’s playground” due to its diverse range of terrain and year-round outdoor recreation opportunities. Each year, millions of people visit Utah’s parks and ski resorts to participate in a wide range of outdoor activities and, in the process, generate billions of dollars in economic impact. In addition to attracting visitor spending, Utah’s outdoor recreation opportunities offer a host of hidden health benefits—something that became more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Utah is unique in that its urban areas are near a variety of parks and ski resorts, which facilitates access to activities that promote healthy lifestyles. In addition to the physical health benefits of outdoor recreation, research shows that exposure to nature offers various mental health advantages, including enhanced cognitive function, lower stress levels, more energy, and improved focus and attention.