When I first moved to a new community one of the challenges I set out to accomplish was visiting all 82 local parks. I took advantage of this free way to discover new places and seized the opportunity to see what my town had to offer. This July, I challenge you to get outside and explore new fitness options, find your green thumb, or discover a new recreation facility.

A Veteran who receives care at the Saginaw, Michigan VA Medical Center has lost over 60 pounds through using what he learned in the MOVE! Weight Management Program and by visiting local parks and recreation facilities. He is an avid kayaker and spends time on the beautiful Au Sable River in Huron National Forest, combining his love for nature and focus on health and well-being.

According to a 2015 study, an overwhelming majority of Americans say that they personally benefit from access to local parks and that their communities benefit from access to local parks. Parks are a vital part of our community; they protect open spaces and natural resources, and help fight obesity, providing activities and resources for everyone. Take time this July to check out the parks around you!

Multiple Health Benefits of Recreation Space

  • Multiple studies show increased amounts of green space are associated with lower symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found increased access to places for physical activity led to a 25.6 % increase in people exercising 3 or more times per week.
  • Living close to recreation facilities is consistently related to higher physical activity and lower weights for adults and youth.

Along with state, county, and local parks there are over 2,000 national recreation locations. If you are active military or permanently disabled you qualify for a FREE pass. If you are over 62 it’s only $10 for a lifetime membership. For more information check out: https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm

For more information on weight management or healthy eating check out your local VA MOVE! Program. Ask your provider about meeting with a registered dietitian to get some one-on-one guidance, too. Get outside today and check out what’s available in your community!

Erin VaillancourtErin Vaillancourt, RD, is passionate about getting outdoors and enjoying Nature! She works in the outpatient MOVE clinic counseling Veterans individually focusing on weight reduction and diabetes. She also teaches a variety of classes and support groups through the Healthy Teaching Kitchen, MOVE! Program and Diabetes Management Programs at the Saginaw, Michigan VA Medical Center.

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Published on Jul. 13, 2016

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