Move More in a Park

woman and child sliding down slide at playgroundDid you know that living near a park is linked to being more active? Parks are great places to move more and enjoy the outdoors. You can find family-friendly activities at all types of parks – the neighborhood playground, the local rec sports field, a large urban parks and recreation facility, state and national parks, forests, and wilderness areas, and every park in between.

Benefits of Outdoor Physical Activity

When you’re moving outside, it’s often more challenging than doing the same activities indoors. The ground is uneven or hilly and the weather is not precisely controlled by the heating and cooling system. You might even have to fight against the wind, which burns more calories too. The upside is that being outside makes it more fun and invigorating. Would you rather go for a 3 mile hike in the woods, feeling the sun on your skin and the breeze in your hair and hearing the birds chirping, or hit the treadmill in a smelly gym while listening to grunting weightlifters?

An interesting study found that when exercising outside, people feel more energized, enjoyed it more, and reported being more likely to do it again in the future. Another study found just being around nature or “green spaces” was associated with better health. Combined with the health benefits of moving more, being active outdoors is one of the healthiest activities you can do for your mind and body.

Types of Activities to Try

Almost any activity you enjoy indoors can be done at a park, from walking to playing sports or resistance training.

Check out your local parks and recreation department to see what facilities are available or if they offer leagues or classes near you. Try out a new sport like ultimate frisbee or revisit a childhood pastime like kickball. Visit a park’s playground with your kids, try a round of disc golf, or challenge your workout buddy to a game of hoops.

Check out local trails or greenways for hiking or biking. Bring the whole family along, even your dog (on a leash). Some organizations even offer guided hikes for beginners, too.

collage of families enjoying parks by swinging, hiking, and biking

Visiting Parks on a Budget

Most local parks, hiking trails, and greenways are free to visit and use. Participating in classes or leagues is generally fee-based. Many parks and recreation departments have sliding scale fees or scholarships for limited resource families, so ask about those options if you find a program you’re interested in. If you need sports equipment, like tennis rackets or baseball gloves, try a second-hand store. For most casual athletes, the quality is fine and the price is better than buying new.

Finally, take advantage of special events. This Saturday, September 22nd, is fee-free entry day for federal lands, including national parks. You can visit Shenandoah National Park or Harpers Ferry National Park, or any other nearby national parks or forests for free! It’s a great opportunity and happens a few times each year. Check out the schedule here.

What outdoor activities do you and your family enjoy? Fall is the perfect time to enjoy moving more at a park or outdoors in general. The weather is still nice, but not too hot, and soon the leaves will start changing for an even more beautiful landscape. Plan an outing with your family soon!

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