I’ve talked about doing the 1,000 Hours Outside challenge this year a bit… But now that we’re more than a quarter into the year, I wanted to share something very interesting that happened.

Some background first: I saw this 1,000 Hours Outside challenge all over TikTok at the end of last year. The challenge is as simple as it sounds: spend 1,000 hours outside over the course of a year. That’s just under three hours a day… People were recapping their “year outside” with beautiful videos and sharing just how much time they spent outside. What really sold me was a video (which I haven’t been able to find again!) about what failing the challenge looked like. This family hadn’t hit the goal of 1,000 hours outside, but they had a full year of beautiful memories. They were sledding and gardening and playing on the beach and picnicking. Their “failure” was still such a win.

I originally pitched this idea to Mike because I thought it would be great for Jack. The part that has shocked me though is how important this has been for myself. I can’t really even tell you how transformative this challenge has been for me. My mental and physical health have never been better. My sense of community has never been greater. I get to spend the best time with Jack outside– and I love getting to watch him explore and test his physical limits and flex his curiosity. We are less rushed when we are outside. We are happier when we are outside. We can get out so much more energy when we’re outside.

1,000 hours outside challenge

There’s been a lot of good to come out of the 1,000 Hours Outside challenge for Jack and even more specifically how we bond and spend time together, but I’m going to make the focus of this post very self centered. This is what it’s done for me:

Three hours outside a day, to me, doesn’t sound like that much. (Especially when I get my screen time report back from Apple every Sunday 🫣.) I have to admit though, I’ve been shocked at how much we have to work to get outside. We HAVE to prioritize it otherwise we “fall behind” the 1,000 hours outside. Now for me, this push has been great. I am someone who is perfectly content to not go outside. I love being home. I love being comfortable. I do not enjoy my hair frizzing up in humidity or rain. I am Goldilocks– I only want to be outside when it’s “just right,” that is, not too hot and not too cold.

Being pushed to go outside with this overarching challenge has gotten me outside though and, wow, what a difference it makes. I truly feel a sense of grounding. As ~woo woo~ as it sounds, too, I genuinely feel more in sync with nature. (Judge me for admitting this out loud, but I swear I do 🤣.)

We start almost every morning with a solid walk and we do a lot of walking now throughout town. I’m not talking “take the dogs out for a quick walk down the street,” but a genuine walk. It’s just over a mile to Jack’s daycare. While I only count the time Jack himself is outside (and only the time he’s outside with Mike or me so we can track), I end up getting another mile on the way home. This has been amazing for me. I love it. Really regardless of the weather– I come back to the house feeling recharged and ready. And then I do the walk to pick him back up in the afternoon. It’s over four miles right there. If I get no other exercise in for the day, I still go to bed feeling like I’ve accomplished something. Our grocery stores by us are either a 10 or 20 minute walk depending on which one we go to and it’s an easy way to get more steps in and make running errands more fun. (Plus I don’t have to wrangle a toddler in and out of a carseat, ha.)

Physically I feel so good– especially pushing the stroller. It feels like a real work out– and my butt has never been more toned from walking up all the hills in our town. More than anything though, the walking has given me dedicated time every day to really think and process through different things. I sometimes listen to podcasts or audiobooks while I’m walking back from daycare alone, but when Jack’s in the stroller we chat every now and then and each kind of sit with our thoughts. It’s helped with my anxiety, without a doubt.

I’ve always felt a good sense of community in our town– I think it has an extra friendly “small town” vibe with a lot of good neighborly behavior. This has only gotten more pronounced since starting this. I’ve met more moms at the playground, have befriended all the school crossing guards, and end up running into friends for impromptu hangs more often.

My pace of life has also changed. I don’t know what exactly to attribute it to (is it that we’re walking? or just feel more relaxed? or that we aren’t cooped up inside trying to come up with activities? or that my house is cleaner since we’re not inside actively destroying it?), but unequivocally I feel less rushed and more calm about everything. Who cares if it takes 30 minutes for us to walk down to the center of town. I follow Jack’s lead and his pace and just feel so much better not feeling like I have to poke and prod him to move faster. Like, deep breath, we’ll get there when we get there.

And, to top it off, I feel less stressed about being a mom. I think I was so worried all the time about doing the right thing and providing the right learning moments and so on and so on. My brain was constantly racing trying to think of and plan and execute activities. This has been a great reminder as a mom that…. Jack doesn’t need that much. When we’re outside he is constantly entertained with literally zero input from me. He leads the way! He’ll simply walk. He’ll stand and watch a squirrel. He’ll pick up acorns. He’ll sit on the sidewalk and watch trains come and go. I can see him problem solving trying to figure out how to turn his tricycle around. Or his fascination with how an earth worm slithers up and down a sidewalk. Or his bravery overcoming a big slide at the playground. I encourage when necessary and step in when needed, but for the most part? I’m just observing. It’s amazing to know I’ll spend (hopefully!) 1,000 hours outside just watching him learn and grow. I feel like I’ve been able to really see him and discover him without this overarching pressure to perform as a mom. I had all this pressure (frankly) from social media about needing to set up sensory bins, and to set up special crafts, and to determine if things on TV are or aren’t okay to watch. I don’t feel that pressure really at all anymore. I do a lot more laundry and have had to buy more shoes (for him and myself) but…. the pressure to perform as a mom is off the table. It’s made me realize he has everything he needs!

Whether or not you have kids, I really recommend at least trying 1,000 hours outside! I’ve been so surprised at how hard it is to hit those daily three hours. It feels like it should be easy…. but it does take some effort to just get outside.

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I love reading about your experience. This is encouraging me to walk more to our grocery store, which is super close by! My son is a little younger than yours, but like you, I’ve definitely felt pressure to create activities and you’re so right- when we are outside, he is always content and there is so much that he enjoys! I love seeing him explore and learn and also so value the peacefulness I experience.


I have two boys who are now 2 and 3. We started the challenge last year when my youngest was obviously still a baby but closer to a year. Being outside was literally life changing for us. It was hard getting two young boys out of the house all the time but everyone was happier for it. My happiness about life and motherhood really changed for the better after we were months in.

We are now on year two and we actually just went camping with friends, we had the best time! I have never camped but this challenge changed our family and we love being outside so why not? I agree, definitely more in tune with nature and I have gradually been on my phone less and less. I leave my phone at home now (my husband has his) when we go on walks and bike rides. Two years ago, that would never happen. We also eat dinner outside most days when the weather is nice to continue being outdoors then the boys run and play after they eat. Also makes clean up way easier!

But thanks for sharing your experience, my family has had nothing but positive outcomes come from the 1000 hours outside challenge. I hope you inspire others because our society could use more of this!

If you ever listen to the 1000 Hours Outside podcast, some episodes are better than others (many I skip but there are some gems), you’ll get some great book recommendations. I just read Comfort Crisis and loved it.


This is great! Fresh air does so much for the mind and soul! I’m just curious, how do you ‘keep track’ of your time spent outdoors?


This was so sweet and wholesome to read about. I try to take my 20 month old outside for about 2 hours a day unless it is pouring. We are so much happier on the days we do it! This was a wonderful post naming so many of the benefits I’ve experienced but haven’t articulated. Thanks for putting it all into words!! Good mothering, Carly!


This is a beautiful reflection. My kids are now 23 & 18 and I remember those toddler days! My kids LOVED being outside and I agree with you, that as their mother I benefited from the outdoors as well. Keep up the great work as Jack’s mom!


Do you ever walk to just get a coffee? I try not to buy coffee out a lot but i find that walking to get a coffee is a good excuse to get outside and go for a walk but i feel guilty spending constantly spending the money on coffee out!


I do a lot from our local coffee and bagel shops. I don’t feel guilty when I’m supporting local businesses!


Plug for all of us to bring a reusable mug when grabbing a coffee to-go! I love the Yeti and Hydroflask versions.

Audrey M

From the first day we were home from the hospital with our baby, we could tell that the ambient noise and fresh air of being outside was a real cheat-code to soothe a fussy baby. We’ve tried to prioritize walks, and it was a real sanity saver while on maternity leave when I’d feel so isolated. As the baby gets more mobile, there’s more frustration being stuck in the stroller but it’s still so good. I just wish the streets and parks in our city (Chicago) were safer and cleaner.


I love this so much! It’s so inspiring and all of it really resonated with me. I actually read the whole thing out loud to my husband too! Our son is about a year younger than Jack (also an August birthday!) and I can really see myself doing this with him next year, but I want to start doing this, even a little bit, now because I know it’ll have such a positive effect.


Love this post. I agree wholeheartedly – being outside is life-changing. In 2019, after I graduated college, I went on a 3 month NOLS backpacking course in the desert (AZ, TX, NM). It stretched me and changed me in ways I never saw for myself. It made me feel stronger and more whole. Now I live in a city, go to grad school, and work in libraries, so very much not the same thing. But I love getting outside like that when I can, and even if it’s not a hike or a backpacking trip, a walk around the river or to the grocery is still great. Thank you for posting this and reminding us that you don’t have to be on an expedition for the outdoors to change you ◡̈


This was one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read. Thank you.
It also reminds me of my Mother telling my brother and I as we watched TV after school, “go outside and play, there’s a whole world out there to discover”.


I’m just curious why everything is a challenge these days and I know most people will not have 3 hours to spend outside every day with work, weather issues, etc. If we get outside for 30 minutes a few days a week that to me is progress.


I think because it’s hard to do so it makes it a challenge– and it’s something we want to prioritize so it’s a good goal to work towards. Also helps us get outside no matter what the weather is– rain and snow included! And to find little ways to swap indoor time for outdoor time. But… your goals may look different and that’s okay too!


Love this! Can you share more about how you stay motivated to get outside even in bad weather? I love going out for long stretches of time on beautiful days, but cold and rainy days make it tough. Any tips?


Amazing!! Reading your wins (and seeing your IG stories!!) definitely motivates and reminds me to make the effort to get outside. And so much of what you’ve experiences is sooo strongly supported by environmental psych research, love seeing you reap the benefits of being outdoors Carly!


Thank you for sharing Carly! I love that you contribute your time outside to helping with your anxiety too. My community is not very pedestrian friendly… do you have any advice for spending time outside when there aren’t necessarily destinations within walking distance? Thanks!