Did you know that living near a park is associated with more activity? Parks are great places to get more exercise and enjoy the outdoors. Family-friendly activities can be found in all kinds of parks – the neighborhood playground, the local recreational sports ground, a large city park and recreation facility, state and national parks, forests and wilderness areas, and every park in between.
Benefits of Outdoor Physical Activity: Often times, exercising outdoors is more of a challenge than doing the same indoor activities. The ground is uneven or hilly and the weather is not precisely controlled by the heating and cooling system. You may even have to fight the wind, which also burns more calories. The upside is that being outside is more fun and invigorating. Would you rather go for a 5 mile hike in the woods, feel the sun on your skin and the breeze in your hair and hear the birds chirp, or hit the treadmill in a smelly gym while listening to weightlifters grunting?
One interesting study found that when people exercise outdoors, they feel more energetic, enjoy it more, and report that they are likely to do it again in the future. Another study found that just being in nature or “green spaces” is associated with better health. Combined with the health benefits of getting more exercise, exercise is one of the healthiest activities for your body and mind.
Types of Activities to Try: Almost any activity you enjoy indoors can be done in a park, from walking to exercising to weight training. Check with your local parks and leisure department to see what facilities are available or if they have leagues or courses in your area. Try a new sport like Ultimate Frisbee or return to a kid activity like kickball. Take your kids to a park playground, try a round of disc golf, or challenge your training partner to a round of hoop. Check out local hiking trails or green trails for walking or cycling. Bring the whole family, even your dog (on a leash). Some organizations even offer guided hikes for beginners.
Visiting Parking on a Budget: Most local parks, trails, and greenways are free to visit and use. Participation in classes or leagues is generally subject to a fee. Many parks and recreational departments have tiered fees or grants for families with limited resources. So when you find a program you’re interested in, ask about these options. If you need sports equipment like tennis rackets or baseball gloves, try a used store. For most recreational athletes, the quality is okay and the price is better than buying a new one.
What outdoor activities do you and your family enjoy? Fall is the perfect time to get more exercise in the park or outdoors in general. The weather is still nice but not too hot and soon the leaves will start to change for an even more beautiful landscape. Start planning a family outing soon!
– Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all. Virginia Cooperative Extension and USDA are equal opportunity / affirmative action employers. This material was funded in part by the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP. Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to everyone regardless of age, skin color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity / affirmative action employer. Issued to promote collaborative expansion work, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the US Department of Agriculture work together. Edwin J. Jones, director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, Expansion Program 1890, Virginia State University, Petersburg.