Green spaces, including parks and recreational areas, have the potential to improve neighborhoods and transform the health of those living in the surrounding community. Physical activity, together with nutritious and balanced food choices, are the key to living a healthier lifestyle and feeling good. In fact, research shows that children who live closer to parks are more physically active than children who do not live near outdoor spaces where they can exercise.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise weekly, plus at least two days of strength training per week. Children ages 6 and older need at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. This should include vigorous-intensity exercise and muscle strengthening activities like gymnastics or pushups at least three days a week.
However, access to community spaces and green spaces that encourage physical activity through fun and engaging equipment and programs are not always readily available. That is why improving proximity to spaces where people of all ages can be active is a big part of the equation, particularly in urban areas where populations are dense and green spaces are limited.
Communities and schools can partner with local businesses and industry leaders to build a healthier environment that promotes increased activity. The City of Los Angeles developed an initiative to create open spaces for local residents to enjoy. With a grant from The Coca-Cola Co., local officials and the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks teamed up to refurbish two soccer fields at the Gilbert W. Lindsay Recreation Center, which were unveiled this month. Neighborhoods with limited resources and few places to safely engage in exercise can greatly benefit from these kinds of community development projects.
If you lay out a solid plan to be more active, including scheduling it into your week, it will be much easier to live a fit lifestyle. Here are some ways you and your family can take advantage of local green spaces to become more physically active:
• Check out the recreational offerings at your local parks and recreational facilities, as many offer classes and activity programs for all ages.
• Map out bike trails and consider biking for transportation or exercise.
• Organize a weekly meetup with friends to walk, hike or play team sports.
• Turn off the television and computer and head out to the neighborhood park with a Frisbee or soccer ball in hand.
• Look into organized after-school or weekend sports teams in your community .
• Join a community pool or sign up for swimming lessons.
• Walk, bike or skate to the park instead of taking the car.
• Find out if any fitness groups, such as boot camps or tai chi classes, meet at your local park and sign up.
• When planning to spend the day outside, take healthy snacks along like fresh fruit, nuts, seeds or air-popped popcorn to keep your energy levels stable.
For more information about parks and recreational facilities, go to your city’s website.
LeeAnn Weintraub, a registered dietitian, provides nutrition counseling and consulting to individuals, families and businesses, including The Coca-Cola Co. She can be reached at RD@halfacup.com.
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