Image: Photo by Sophie Higginbottom on Unsplash
The European Week of Sport is about encouraging people to #BeActive in any way they can, and one of the most effective ways to do that is also one of the simplest: go and get some fresh air in the great outdoors. That is exactly what the It’s Great Out There Coalition promotes.
It’s Great Out There is a unique not-for-profit European collaboration launched in 2017 to increase public awareness of the benefits and positive impact of outdoor activities for individuals and society. “We aim to inspire generations of Europeans to embrace the outdoors by spreading the message that #ItsGreatOutThere,” says Margo de Lange, It’s Great Out There’s Policy Officer. “Just being outside helps people’s mental health. You find being outside, in nature, does so much for your wellbeing. And to combine that with physical activity, gives you a broader appreciation of our environment.”
De Lange says the aims of the European Week of Sport (EWoS) are very similar to those of It’s Great Out There: to motivate people to get active. “We are a new partner in EWoS, which has been very important to raise awareness at all levels. As Eurobarometer surveys show, there are some very hard-to-reach groups that resist physical activity. This is something we want to address. So we provide grants to groups to deal with this. We take them by the hand and show this inactive group how they can change.”
It’s Great Out There is one of the supporters of the BeActive #5minchallenge, based around the idea that even five minutes of exercise a day can have beneficial effects. But de Lange points out that this has to be a step towards a more sustained effort at staying active. “If it is just about the five minutes, it will not be enough to change people’s lifestyle,” she says. “It can be really useful in raising visibility, especially on social media. The #5minchallenge is very good to visualise. But it has to be sustained.”
The It’s Great Out There Coalition works around 3 areas: to motivate people to get active outdoors, to activate people and organisations through our grants programme and to advocate for outdoor activity on a national and European level. It intensified its activities around EWoS with the launch of its own Ambassadors' programme and through social media. Its grants go to projects, usually grassroots initiatives, that share the core objective to get people outdoors. Their grants have gone to projects like the initiative by a group of teenagers from Italy to cycle 170km along the Danube river to Vienna, and a two-week German programme for 13 to15-year-olds to cross the Alps.
While de Lange says EWoS is very valuable in raising awareness across different groups, she underlines that it is important to do more than just instigate physical activity. “People have to personally schedule in time to do sport, especially those who live in cities with a busy work schedule and little time left at the end of the day,” she says. “You have to develop a whole approach that covers questions like diet and your own health and physique. What we do is use the environment to promote an active lifestyle. It is a very broad approach. We are never going to say, ‘Go outside and eat what you like.’ We need to change attitudes to everything about health and activity.”
It’s Great Out There tries to make that change happen by reaching out to people who are already active. The group has a campaign, #TakeSomeoneOutdoors, that involves taking a friend out to experience the joys of nature. “You can use people who are on the right track to get the message across,” says de Lange. “This can be framed toward those people who can take 60-year-olds on their walking route. We see that community initiatives where people make a huge impact – and we’d like to celebrate those people.”