Research on Norwegian outdoor recreation: More action, less exertion

Norwegians are known for their love of nature and outdoor recreation. More than a third of all Norwegians feel that outdoor recreation is their most important leisure activity. But activity trends are changing towards more action – with less physical exertion.

“Outdoor recreation is deeply ingrained in the Norwegian populace. In 2004, nearly a third of the population engaged in outdoor recreational activities at least twice a week,” reports Alf Odden, who has completed his doctoral dissertation entitled “Trends in Norwegian outdoor recreation”.

Youth want more action

Young people in particular are increasingly choosing high-action activities such as mountain biking, freestyle skiing, surfing and kiting. A total of 15 per cent of the population participate in such activities – comprising a larger group than those who have hunting as a hobby.

Changes are significant in other areas as well: Fewer people are going cross-country skiing, while more do alpine skiing. More people are swimming and taking short hikes, but fewer take long hikes or go on long fishing trips. There are fewer rowers and paddlers, and more people who drive motorboats. The clear-cut tendency is towards activities that require less physical exertion.

“These changing patterns in activity are far more evident among young people than among other groups,” explains Dr Odden. “Young people are of particular interest because they give us an indication of future trends. As a rule, new trends emerge first in this group.”

Larger social differences

Dr Odden’s study indicates that people with less education and lower income spend less time on outdoor recreation than do people with academic educations – and that this gap is widening. Dr Odden believes this trend is a product of family time-squeeze; recreational activities simply lose out.

Some families, especially those headed by parents with an academic background, prioritise outdoor recreation more than other families do. A further factor for the growing disparity, asserts Dr Odden, is that these more educated families can also afford to buy the specialised equipment often needed for new types of outdoor activities.

Project funded by the Research Council

The primary objective of Alf Odden’s project was to analyse the changing trends in Norwegian outdoor recreation during the period 1970-2004. Dr Odden is an associate professor at the Department of Sports and Outdoor Life Studies at Telemark University College. His doctoral research was part of a project funded under the Research Council’s programme Changing Landscapes (the LANDSKAP programme), which recently presented its final report.

Source: Research Council of Norway

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