family on hiking trip

As outdoor activity increases, more people seek health benefits associated with the outdoors

More Americans are looking to the outdoors as a place to find health and happiness than ever before according to our recent Spotlight survey. Overall, 71% percent of respondents in this year’s survey agree that outdoor activities are beneficial to their health, an increase of three points from 2023.

For the past four years, our annual Winnebago Industries Spotlight Survey has analyzed outdoor industry trends and consumer behavior to provide insights that shape our efforts to elevate outdoor experiences for our customers.

Here are three takeaways from this year’s spotlight survey.

Outdoor participation continues to increase 

After the COVID-19 pandemic, some predicted that interest in outdoor activity might wane as other entertainment options reopened, but that has not been the case.

When asked about their plans for 2024, 86% of respondents said they plan to increase or maintain their current participation level in outdoor activities. With summer just around the corner, Americans are readying for vacation and travel time, and 95% of respondents indicated they plan to participate in an outdoor activity this summer.

For camping and RVing this year, 37% of respondents plan on camping (an increase of two points from last year) and 11% of respondents plan to go on an RV trip (steady from last year).

“As people spend more time outside, they often find impactful emotional benefits, including feelings of freedom, personal growth and connection – both to the natural environment and to family and friends,” said Amber Holm, chief marketing officer for Winnebago Industries.

This year’s survey showed that over half of the respondents spend 2-10 hours a week outside engaging in activities like birdwatching, photography, RV trips and boating. Additionally, 51% plan to hit the beach and 48% will head to the lake this summer. 

“It’s no surprise that people want to be outdoors during the summer when the weather is favorable. What’s notable is the increasing interest in camping, boating and hiking year after year, as people become more aware of the benefits of these activities and experiences,” said Katie Deutsch, senior manager, consumer insights & analytics at Winnebago Industries. “We anticipate this trend will continue and don’t expect it to slow down anytime soon.” 

More people are realizing the health benefits of being outdoors

According to a study by GWI, Gen Z is averaging over four hours a day on their cell phones, with a correlation to increased mental health struggles. However, it’s no secret that getting outside benefits our mind, body and soul. 

A review of various studies published in the National Library of Medicine reveals that 92% of studies consistently demonstrate improvements across multiple health outcomes when people spend time outdoors. Notably, 98% of studies highlighted positive impacts on mental health

Our survey results echo this understanding among respondents, too:

  • 71% agree outdoor activities benefit our health

  • 69% agree outdoor activities are a good way to reduce screen time 

  • 70% agree getting outside has had a positive impact on their life


“Our latest insights reinforce a strong link between outdoor activities and physical and mental well-being,” said Holm. “Respondents said the top three reasons outdoor activity positively impacts their life is because it improves physical health, improves mental health and reduces stress.”

Our survey respondents made it clear that outdoor activity is on the rise and cultivates a healthier and more balanced life. Those in the outdoor recreation industry must provide programming and opportunities to, not just Gen Z, but all ages in outdoor activities so that they can take advantage of the incredible benefits of fresh air. 

Introducing and providing access to the outdoors to younger generations remains critical

Research has shown that nature provides children, adolescents and young adults with a rich and dynamic environment that stimulates curiosity, creativity and physical activity. Sixty-nine percent of survey respondents agree that outdoor activities are a good way to reduce screen time.

It is important to expose kids to the outdoors at an early age, as almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents started participating in outdoor activities as children, fueling a lifelong interest in enjoying nature. However, only 45% of Gen Z respondents said they feel comfortable in the outdoors compared to 62% of millennials who strongly agreed that they feel comfortable in the outdoors.

“At Winnebago Industries, we encourage everyone to enjoy more time outside, or bring someone new to the outdoors along on your next outing, whether its enjoying a family adventure with one of our RVs or boats or simply going for a walk in the park,” said Holm. “We are excited to see a continued interest in spending time outside and a deeper understanding of the benefits nature can provide.”