The U.S. Forest Service and the American Recreation Coalition have partnered with other federal, state and local agencies, recreation businesses and outdoor enthusiast organizations, including, Groundspeak Inc., Leave No Trace, Tread Lightly!, Cabella’s, REI, and more, to host, National Get Outdoors Day or “GO Day”. GO Day is a relatively new effort to encourage Americans to get healthy by participating in outdoor activities. According to their website “Prime goals of the day are reaching currently underserved populations and first-time visitors to public lands, and reconnecting our youth to the great outdoors.” Those may be the prime goals but they are not the only goals.
The Go Day press release from 2009 stated that today’s kids are more likely to live shorter lives due to their parents inactive indoor lifestyles and evidenced by the obesity epidemic in children we are seeing grow with each passing year. A disturbing thought to say the least. In an effort to combat this problem GO Day events “will offer a mix of information centers and “active fun” areas – places where guests, and especially kids, can use a fishing pole, go geocaching, help pitch a tent and more. The sites will provide photo opportunities with characters like Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl and other interesting creatures. Many sites also feature areas that focus on other aspects of healthy living, including sustainability and good nutrition. In addition to the GO Day events, participants will be invited to nearby follow-up activities called EchO events occurring throughout the summer, which include introductions to mountain biking and fly-fishing, hikes with rangers to see wildlife, kayaking and rafting and much more.” according to the National Get Outdoors website. Each partner in this effort deserves a massive round of thanks for attempting to combat the current epidemic of obesity in this country.
David Sikes of Texas in his recent article on caller.com entitled Key to happy, healthy child might be in the woods, references a book by Richard Louv, The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Sikes states, “Louv suggests that children with a more intimate relationship with nature are less likely to suffer from obesity, attention disorders and depression. I further contend that hunting, fishing, paddling, camping and other wilderness activities provide children with a lasting perspective on life that cannot be found on a television or computer screen.” I have to agree with him on this, but not just for children.
Whatever our age, an active lifestyle has massive benefits including reduced stress, improved sleep, better muscle tone, improved posture which helps ease back pain and healthier immune systems. Additional benefits are seemingly side effects, but are actually just as important as the physical benefits already mentioned. By being outdoors and interacting with nature, seeing wildlife in it’s own habitat as opposed to a zoo or computer screen, cements within us a bond to the land and it’s creatures that is lasting. We come to realize that we are not just observers of an eco-system; we are a participants of “the eco-system”. What we do matters. I can’t think of a better way to actually feel the truth of this, than by being outside in a space that is bigger than us. A space that is still mostly wild. A place where we as humans are not the main focus of the spaces existence. So this Saturday, June 12, 2010, drag yourself away from the screens in your life and got to a local GO Day event or visit a State or National Park with your kids. You won’t regret a minute of it.
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