As we move around during the summer months, the importance of parks, recreation and related services remains vital. Although the weather is warmer, staying active, whether it’s indoor or outdoor activities, is beneficial to our physical and emotional/mental health.
Since 1985, America has celebrated July as Park and Recreation Month, an initiative of the nonprofit National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA).
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The top seven benefits that park and recreation spaces bring to a community and the larger ecosystem are listed below and detailed individually in the presentation, available online at getomnify.com.
1) Health and individual benefits
2) Family and community ties
3) Parks as spaces for mentoring programs
4) Promotion of activities for children
5) Helps build safer neighborhoods
6) Economic progress
7) environmental benefits
So what are some of the health benefits of recreational activities?
Two main benefits (of many) are the potential for a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, and a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure.
Physical activity can also help:
- Encourage social interaction
- Improve concentration and learning
- Increase personal confidence and self-esteem
- Reduce feelings of depression and anxiety
- Increase self-esteem
- improve quality of life
resilience and recovery
Going to a park frequently and being active can reduce stress, improve cardiovascular health, prevent obesity, and relieve depression. The US National Recreation and Park Association website states:
- Active users of public parks have a lower body mass index
- People who visit parks for a long time (an hour or more) have significantly lower systolic blood pressure
- Park users who are more physically active and have frequent contact with friends in their free time report less depression
- People who have better access to parks, visit parks more often, and are physically active in parks are also less likely to see their doctor
- Playing in parks also helps children build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints and improve self-esteem
A good tip that you should seriously consider is to leave your technology at home or at least turn it off. There is nothing better than cooking outside or sitting by the fire. Resist the urge to bring modern conveniences with you. Sign up for messages only when absolutely necessary.
Also visit the visitor center for some ideas for hiking, bird watching, fishing, kayaking or other activities in the park. There may be options for things that you weren’t considering or aware of.
Tallahassee and the Leon County/Big Bend area have a variety of governmental, nonprofit, and outdoor organizations and groups that help residents experience and enjoy some health benefits in the broadest sense at the same time. At the end of this column you will find some resources.
Please take the opportunity to experience our parks and other recreational activities and participate in our many interesting groups. Being proactive can lead to better health and an improved quality of life for everyone involved.
information and resources
The National Park Service cares about special places saved by the American people so all can experience our heritage. The website can be accessed at nps.gov/index.htm.
A link to information about Tallahassee’s sports and recreation services is at talgov.com/parks/ParksHome.
Information on the Leon County Department of Parks and Recreation, which is responsible for maintaining green spaces, and a variety of other activities is available at cms.leoncountyfl.gov.
A major Florida association with a local affiliate is the Florida Trail Association (FTA). For a detailed list of all 18 statewide affiliates with detailed information, including our own Apalachee chapter, visit floridatrail.org.
Mark Mahoney served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Latin America for over four (4) years, has been a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RDN) for over 35 years, and has a graduate degree in Public Health from Columbia University. He can be reached at [email protected]