Last week, when I read Erling Kagge’s beautiful book ‘Walking – one step at a time’I was shocked and (strangely) not surprised to discover the answer.

3/4 of English children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates in the same country.


While we’re complaining about the condition of convicts, we’re subjecting our children to circumstances that are conceivably worse.

I know I’m caught up in the hyperbole of this – and there’s no way our children are worse off than prisoners – but that statistic really struck a chord with me.

What can we do to change this?

I don’t know the answer. But I know we need to talk about it and explore possibilities.

Different from my usual newsletter but I’d love to know what you think. Please comment below.

Be Brilliant!


  1. September 19th 2019 by Nick Halder

    For me this one starts with parents – spending more quality time with our children doing things (that don’t involve a screen).

    1. September 27th 2019 by Michael Heppell

      I think you’re speaking on behalf of millions of people here Nick.

  2. September 19th 2019 by Charlie Gray

    Hi Michael,

    I am member and loyal fan of the Cloud Appreciation Society (https://cloudappreciationsociety.org/) which is a great way to get out and look up (always a good skill in life). Both my daughters help me spot different cloud types, cloud shapes and optical phenomenon (rainbows and such) and love being outdoors as result. The more you collect the more stars and badges you get… and what kid doesn’t like collecting. Meteorology, geography and science are all learnt having fun…. bonus!

    Best, Charlie

    1. September 27th 2019 by Michael Heppell

      The cloud appreciation society! I absolutely love it what a great idea – I’m going to look up and sign up.

  3. September 19th 2019 by Toby Philpott

    Wow! We read the same book at the same time!

    I think the onus is on schools and parents/guardians to factor in time outside. I think also that Councils and the UK Government could do more to encourage people to enjoy the great outdoors too.

    When you and I were both kids we didn’t have 24/7 news filling our parents heads with dread. That hasn’t helped either.

    1. September 27th 2019 by Michael Heppell

      Hi Toby isn’t it great book I absolutely loved it. The 24/7 news thing is awful.

  4. September 19th 2019 by stuart harper

    This is in the hands of parents, and I’m guilty of not putting aside the time, for the family like everyone else, as it’s easy not to bother going outside. And kids will generally complain about being dragged away from the Xbox or tv. But when we have put aside the time and endured the grumpy faces, and got out in the park or walked to the woods etc. It’s been amazing how the quickly the smiles have appeared and the kids have run off here are there exploring. So as a rule we try and arrange a walk with friends on Weekends at least once a fortnight as a achievable goal. It’s a break for us as well as them, and it’s not hard it doesn’t cost money and there’s always a park or something near everybody.

    1. September 27th 2019 by Michael Heppell

      You’re so right Stuart the biggest challenge is getting kids through the door once outside they absolutely love it.

  5. September 19th 2019 by Louise Skinner

    This appears to me to be a societal problem. It is easy to accuse parents of poor discipline, allowing children access to devices, failing to lead by example etc. but for many years, schools have been the victims of profiteering by local authorities selling off playing fields and community recreational spaces have not been kept safe for our children to play in. Our infrastructure is woefully inadequate for the needs of cyclists outside the major cities. Money, sex and power drive our cultural values. Parents are bound to be fearful for their children, when out of their sight. Even as a healthy, relatively active and motivated parent, I did not allow my son (now 19) to enjoy the same freedom I had as a child and children do not, often, want to exercise with or in close proximity to their parents beyond a certain age.
    We live in chaotic and confused times and I believe the only way to improve/increase physical activity for children is for every adult to take back responsibility for their own fitness. Clearly many need help with this and state involvement. Why are so many of our politicians overweight, smokers, drinkers? All leisure and sporting facilities should offer free sessions to encourage children to explore different activities, as cost is often a deterrent to families with limited disposable income. In short, as a society, we need to stop being so selfish and greedy and look at the basic needs of the upcoming generations who will take our world forward. Making parkrun compulsory between the ages of 11-18 would at least get people outside and moving about!

    1. September 27th 2019 by Michael Heppell

      Wow lots of thoughts and ideas there Louise and so much of it really resonates with me

  6. September 19th 2019 by Becs

    We have a lively 5 year old boy and a lively 3 year old Labrador. Walking is our wind down we both work so fit it in when we can, We talk and play on our walks, proper family time! If it’s dark the head torches come and we head off on an adventure, if its raining throw on a coat. No such thing as the wrong weather just the wrong clothes.

    1. September 27th 2019 by Michael Heppell

      I can see now with your head torches on. Wonderful!

  7. September 19th 2019 by Lynn Hepple

    We’re lucky enough to live on a street in the North East where kids still play blocky until the sun goes down although the lure of the Playstation and YouTube is always lurking in the background!

    1. September 27th 2019 by Michael Heppell

      Blocky. You made my day writing this.

  8. September 19th 2019 by Mike Rainey

    Many of your correspondents seem to have come to much the same conclusion that I have. The problem lies largely with parents who want to be their child’s best friend rather than accept their role as parent.

    1. September 27th 2019 by Michael Heppell

      Mike a concur 100%. When I hear a mother talking about her 14 year old daughter as her ‘best friend’ it makes me shudder. Christine always said to me, ‘Our job is to be parents not popular’.

  9. September 19th 2019 by Jonathan

    Our motto is “Outside and enjoying ourselves” followed by “There’s no bad weather only poor clothing choices”, imagine the fun you can have on good weather and bad weather days, our children remember and photos show memories being built together even outside in the UK. Now our grandson enjoys running around the garden more than being inside, possibly he thinks he’s one of the dogs.

    1. September 27th 2019 by Michael Heppell


  10. September 19th 2019 by Julian Burnell

    Geocaching is great fun for kids of all ages and has the advantage that it can be done anywhere- city or countryside.

    1. September 27th 2019 by Michael Heppell

      Time for me to learn about Geocaching

  11. September 20th 2019 by Karen Wilkie

    Hi Michael – here’s my simple suggestion – when relatives & friends ask for birthday/xmas present suggestions for your kids, ask for outdoor toys e.g. kites, balls, etc. or funky outdoor hats/gloves etc that they’ll be desparate to show off.

    1. September 27th 2019 by Michael Heppell

      Brilliant idea.

  12. September 20th 2019 by Karen Wilkie

    Also fully support Julian’s comment – geocaching took my son & his friends miles without them even noticing!

    1. September 27th 2019 by Michael Heppell

      I’ve got to get in to this Geocaching

  13. December 31st 2019 by Diving Zenobia

    Such a article. My husband and I run a diving center in Cyprus. We want to offer something more than diving to our customers, something different, thought provoking, unique and absolutely appealing. Open to any ideas? Complimentary refreshments already a given…

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