13 Movies That Showcase the Great Outdoors
Academy Award season is officially in full swing. Have you seen these films that exhibit the outdoors (for better or worse)?
America’s fascination with the outdoors began long before the growth of Hollywood in the early twentieth century, and so it has been woven throughout our cinematic history as well. Typically, the role of wilderness in movies has been adversarial, playing on the trope of “man vs. nature.”
Other times, it serves as a gorgeous backdrop, giving the action a profound sense of place, or even a setting for personal transformation, as in the upcoming film Wild.
Whatever the purpose, the outdoors has played a starring role in many iconic films, from the serious to the silly. Here is our look at a few of them:
A River Runs Through It (1992)
Based on a novel by Norman Maclean, the tale of a family fly-fishing in Montana has drawn praise for its loving portrayal of the Montana outdoors (it is said to have boosted the local economy by piquing tourists’ interest). It also brought attention to the plight of the Blackfoot River, whose polluted state at the time made it unfit for filming (the movie was shot mostly on the Gallatin River instead). Robert Redford’s third effort as a director won an Academy Award for cinematography and led New York Times critic Caryn James to note that she “never thought [she would] say: I like a movie about fly fishing.”
A River Runs Through It, was shot along the Gallatin River in Montana. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Never Cry Wolf (1983)
In this little-remembered, beautifully photographed film, Charles Martin Smith played Farley Mowat, a real-life Canadian author who recounted his experiences embedded with wolves in the Arctic in a 1963 book of the same name. Mowat’s work has been credited with helping to debunk the popular perception of wolves as voracious killers. Famed New York Times critic Vincent Canby praised the film’s visuals, saying, “The scenery is often spectacularly beautiful” and that “Perhaps the best thing about the film is that the wolves are never made to seem like strange but cuddly dogs. They look like wolves, not especially threatening but still remote and complete unto themselves.”
This cult classic centered around an orphaned bear cub and adult grizzly accompanying one another through the wilds of Canada and trying to stay one step ahead of a pair of hunters and various other dangers. Roger Ebert said the movie “does an impressive job of seeming to show wild bears in their natural habitat” (despite the use of several animatronic bears in filming).
Indeed, human presence is kept to a minimum, with very little dialogue and a lush visual approach making it feel more like a documentary at times. “Bart the Bear,” who portrayed the adult grizzly, achieved a measure of fame and traveled the world as an animal actor after being born in a zoo. He went on to star in several other big-name films before his death in 2000, and a bear conservation group was later founded in his honor by the couple that raised him.
Dances with Wolves (1990)
This Kevin Costner vehicle won a slew of Oscars despite criticism for its self-indulgent and simplistic depiction of mid-19th century Sioux life. Costner played a Union soldier making a life for himself in the wilds of South Dakota, “befriending” a wolf (hence the film’s title). The film touches on early conservation issues and bemoans overhunting of great plains bison by white settlers
White Fang (1991)
The critical reception for this loose adaptation of Jack London’s novel about the adventures of a wolf-dog hybrid was mixed, but it drew praise for expertly showcasing the Alaskan wilderness in which it was set. Roger Ebert said it was “magnificently photographed on location” and an exemplar of those films that “[hold] the natural world in wonder and awe”—fitting, given the florid nature prose of the original.
Return of the Jedi (1983)
This gruelling account of a man trapped by a falling rock inside an isolated slot canyon has served as a cautionary tale for cavalier outdoor adventurers despite drawing heavy criticism for its creative depiction of the real-life events that befell Aron Ralston. For all this, the movie—and book on which it was based—has actually made Utah’s Blue John Canyon a more popular destination for hikers. A little-told postscript: Ralston, who was famously forced to amputate his own arm to escape the predicament, continued rock-climbing with his prosthetic hand.
Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
Robert Redford was still a young rising star when he portrayed a hirsute nineteenth century man living in the wilds of the Rocky Mountains in this Sidney Pollack effort nominated for the coveted Palme d'Or, but he was already driven by a passion for nature.
Filmed in Utah, the movie was praised by Time Out for its use of the region’s “fantastically beautiful, desolate snowscapes.” It was perhaps the most acclaimed of the 1970s string of counterculture westerns, informed by conservation themes and critical of traditional notions of frontier expansion. And, of course, it featured one of the best beards in cinema.
The Great Outdoors (1988)
Dan Aykroyd and John Candy played odd-couple in-laws whose families clash during a weekend getaway in California’s Sierra National Forest (here portraying backwoods Wisconsin). Among the movie’s high points was a scene in which a bear—played by Bart the Bear, naturally—returned to face the hunter that had left it bald with a shotgun blast years before. Although poorly-received by critics, this remains one of the few examples of a specifically outdoors-themed slapstick comedy.
Into the Wild (2007)
Sean Penn’s directorial effort starred Emile Hirsch as real-life recent college grad Christopher McCandless, who travelled the country in semi-drifter fashion and sought out an ascetic life in nature near Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve.
Filmed in a variety of national parks and other well-known sites across the country, this adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s hit non-fiction account ended on a wrenching, poignant note, as McCandless succumbed to the elements—or was unintentionally poisoned—in the sublime isolation of the outdoors.
The Edge (1997)
Another Bart the Bear film, The Edge starred Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins as a photographer and his billionaire employer engaged in a survivalist battle of wits in Alaska. It has been praised for its use of spectacular scenery in British Columbia and Roger Ebert noted that it was “like a wilderness adventure movie written by David Mamet,” (which, indeed, it was). While the setting may seem incidental to the hard-boiled action at the movie’s core, the wildness of the Alaskan (in this case faux-Alaskan) frontier, including the climactic bear attack, is a perfect complement to the savagery of the human protagonists.
The Edge. Credit: Max Bisschop /Flickr
Legends of the Fall (1994)
The story of a man and his three sons in remote Montana in the early twentieth century was criticized as a “silly melodrama” by some, but it did win an Oscar for its beautiful cinematography. As film critic Janet Maslin put it, “There's some mighty pretty country on display,” resulting in a “picture-postcard vision of the American West.”
Last of the Mohicans (1992)
This period epic was loosely based on James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel about the French and Indian War, which itself sparked the imagination of countless lovers of the outdoors (including future president Theodore Roosevelt, who devoured it and other adventure stories as a child).
Famed method actor Daniel Day Lewis lived in the woods in preparation for his role as Nathaniel Poe (“Natty Bumppo” in the novel, or Hawkeye), a white man adopted by the Mahican (“Mohican”) tribe of the American northeast. Director Michael Mann filmed much of the movie in the woods of North Carolina, feeling their relatively untouched look fit the eighteenth century Adirondacks he was trying to portray. Evidently it worked. A Washington Post review praising Mann’s work exclaimed that “Even the awesome landscape looks designed.”
Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Beth Ann Mayer
Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
- Should I Exercise During the Coronavirus Pandemic? Experts ... ›
- If Meditation Is Not Your Thing, Try a Walk in the Woods - EcoWatch ›
In Major Win for Indigenous Rights, Supreme Court Rules Much of Eastern Oklahoma Is Still a Reservation
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
- Federal Judge Orders Trump Admin to Give Native Americans Their ... ›
- Police Were Ready to Shoot Indigenous Pipeline Protesters in ... ›
- Climate Justice, Indigenous Rights Advocates Rally for Wet'suwet'en ... ›
By Tiffany Means
Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.
The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.
- Airborne Coronavirus Transmission Must Be Taken Seriously, 239 ... ›
- Trump Halts WHO Funding Amidst Criticism of His Own Coronavirus ... ›
- Here's Why COVID-19 Can Spread So Easily at Gyms and Fitness ... ›
- Is the New Coronavirus Airborne? A Study From China Finds Evidence ›
By Angela Nicoletti
The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.
- Global Frog Pandemic May Become Even Deadlier as Strains ... ›
- New Species of Diamond Frog Discovered in Remote Pocket of ... ›
- Frogs Are on the Verge of Mass Extinction, Scientists Say - EcoWatch ›
A new analysis by scientists at the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that lemurs and the North Atlantic right whale are on the brink of extinction.
- Trump Admin Denies Endangered Species Protections to Pacific ... ›
- Trump Admin Failed to Protect 241 Species From Extinction ... ›
- New Border Wall Construction Threatens 8 Species With Extinction ... ›
By Julia Vergin
It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
- 8 Ways to Tell if You Are Vitamin D Deficient - EcoWatch ›
- 7 Healthy Foods That Are High in Vitamin D - EcoWatch ›
- 7 Nutrient Deficiencies That Are Incredibly Common ›