Embrace the Great Outdoors and Challenge Yourself This Summer

12/08/2016 12:35 | Updated 12 August 2016

The summer months provide the perfect time to walk the hills and roam the valleys of our outstanding British countryside. But last week's research that the average person walks for less than half a mile a day has been playing on my mind.

In addition to the physical benefits of exploring the outdoors, the freedom that comes from escaping the everyday hustle and bustle only ever has a positive effect on my mental state. In fact, I believe that spending time out in the open is essential for our overall wellbeing. It's amazing how a walk, run or cycle can clear even the busiest of minds.

The notion of getting outdoors isn't new to anyone who has achieved their Duke of Edinburgh's (DofE) Award. We're passionate about getting young people from all walks of life out in the countryside and equipping them with the tools and confidence to safely enjoy the natural habitat around them. Every year thousands of our participants explore the fields, forests and parks of the UK and abroad, as well as sleeping under the stars as part of their DofE expedition. For many young people, this is the first experience they have with the great outdoors.

As CEO of the DofE Charity, it is my continued mission to give today's young people opportunities to improve their physical and mental wellbeing. In large part, this comes from encouraging them to spend more time out of their comfort zone - turning off the telly, switching off the mobile and engaging with the outdoors and wider community. By leaving their comfort zones, our young people grow through the challenges they take on, build their self-confidence and often form strong and lasting friendships.

While I've been lucky enough to see first-hand the life-changing impact achieving a DofE Award can have on a young person's general wellbeing, the DofE's positive impact doesn't just stop with those young people taking part. The effect ripples out into the surrounding communities and countryside, especially through the volunteering projects young people take on to complete their DofE programmes.

To help us celebrate our Diamond Anniversary this year, we are challenging people of all ages to do something adventurous and get out of their comfort zones with the DofE Diamond Challenge. People like Katie Mcleod, who became a DofE Leader after completing her Gold Award to help more young people experience the same benefits she had. To further support the Charity, Katie and her friends undertook their own challenge in Scotland, where they climbed Ben Nevis, canoed the Great Glen and cycled to Edinburgh. BBC's Countryfile even joined the group for the canoe leg of their journey - inviting presenter and DofE alumnus Joe Crowley to take on this part of the challenge with them.

With a few weeks of summer left, why not leave your comfort zone behind and take on your own DofE Diamond Challenge. It doesn't need to be extreme - you could learn a new skill, complete a 10k run or get your friends together for the adventure of a lifetime. You can find out more and sign up to take part here - good luck!