One of the most concerning health related issues facing children today is the rise of childhood obesity. In fact, statistics say that one out of five children is considered overweight, and since 1980, the prevalence of childhood obesity has doubled and teenage obesity has tripled. Factors that have led to this increase are the convenience of fast foods, lack of physical activity and lack of healthy alternatives in the schools, and many others. The bottom line however, is that our children and families are consuming too many calories and are not physically active enough. As a result, more and more people develop chronic diseases such as diabetes which will affect their overall quality of life.
Researchers have identified that one of the strongest factors to support physical activity is the amount or time children spend outdoors. Children who spend time outdoors are more physically active than those who don’t. In our “built” environment, never has spending time outdoors become so important, yet so difficult for many. People today are spending more time indoors than ever before with some people spending more than 80% of their lives indoors!
For children especially, spending time outdoors can provide benefits that go beyond physical activity. Outdoor activities promote cognitive and social development through unstructured play with other children and through the exploration of the natural environment. Some researchers suggest that exposure to light influences children’s moods, performance, sleeping patterns, and sensory development.
One way to motivate children and families to spend more time outdoors is to foster an interest in nature. Thus, our reason for developing the “Health Nuts” program, which combines health and environmental education.
Health Nuts allows families to learn how to appreciate nature, be more physically active, eat healthier, and learn to play in mud! Ohio State University Extension, Butler County Soil and Water Conservation District, and Butler County Metroparks have developed a unique learning experience called Health Nuts which combines health and environmental education. The program offers eight weeks of programs that combine health and environment education through outdoor activities and healthy eating topics. It provides hands on activities, games and something good to eat! Throughout the eight weeks, a vegetable garden will be planted and cultivated by participants at Rentschler Forest MetroPark and Chrisholm MetroPark. Health Nuts concludes with Mud Mania, a wildly popular mud obstacle course.
The “Health Nuts” program typically takes place every Friday morning beginning June 15th from 10:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m. at a local park. Participants have the opportunity to explore nature at Butler County Metroparks, learn about nutrition and fitness, and play in mud!
For more information call Metroparks at (513) 867-5835, OSU Extension, Butler County at (513) 887-3722, or Butler County Soil & Water Conservation District at (513) 785-6668.
News Release provided by Kathy Mujumdar.