We know that good nutrition and regular physical activity are essential to health. Yet, other factors, like the environment we live and work in, also determine the health of our communities. Think of your community: where can residents safely enjoy physical activity? You likely thought of a public park, trails, or a recreation facility. July happens to be Park and Recreation Month and its purpose is to promote and recognize local parks and rec efforts. Let’s take this opportunity to discuss how public parks and trails improve our communities and promote good health for all.
Americans Need to Move More
Most U.S. children and adults are not active enough. The CDC recommends that children and adolescents aim for 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day and adults get 150 minutes of aerobic activity every week. Less than one-third of youth and only half of US adults reach the recommended amounts of physical activity. This accounts for $117 billion in annual health care costs.
Safe Places for Physical Activity
Public parks and trails encourage residents to be physically active more often. The closer you live to a park or trail, the more likely you are to walk or bike there and use it for exercise. People are also more likely to walk or bike if they have a safe route, free from traffic and other hazards. A public park or trail designed for pedestrians and biking supports active living in the community. This allows residents to improve their fitness and reduce their risk for chronic disease.
Enjoy Health Benefits and the Outdoors
Go get some fresh air. Exercising outside can reduce our stress and improve our mood and mental health. People can connect with nature and parks facilitate community interaction. This helps enhance our overall well-being.
Support Public Parks and Trails
There are a few different ways that you can support and increase the impact of public parks and trails in your community. You can attend community planning meetings and advocate for parks and trails to be located close to residential areas. When possible, you can also choose to live in homes closer to public parks and trails.
The best thing we can all do is to take advantage of our local parks and trails. I like Oh, Ranger! Parkfinder, which allows you to search for parks by location with the activities you want to do. They have a website and free mobile app. State parks departments and the National Park Service also have online listings for the parks they manage. Discover an unexplored park or try a new activity at a park you have already visited. You won’t regret the decision. It will recharge you and brighten your week.