September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. According to the Center for Disease Control 1 in 5 children are obese which can lead to other serious health issues such as diabetes, heart conditions, and emotional problems like depression. This is a complex epidemic that involves many solutions including diet, exercise and healthy living choices.
But there is good news! Research shows that children who spend time actively playing in nature are less likely to develop childhood obesity. The Texas Children in Nature network is dedicated to creating access to nature for children and families so they can live healthier and happier lives.
One of the ways TCiN provides opportunities to children and families is through the Nature Rocks Texas websites which list all the green spaces, nature centers, parks and activities in: Central Texas, South Texas, North Texas and the Caprock region. TCiN and our partners want families to have options when making their choices to be active in the outdoors.
The Surgeon General recently released a call to action called Step It Up! to promote walking and walkable cities. Walking is a great way to stay healthy and when you combine walking in a natural area; you get even more benefits. Research now shows that children and adults who spend time in nature feel less stress; there are many links between stress and weight gain in both children and adults. There are plenty of place to walk and explore in Texas which has 90 plus State Parks, 10 National Parks / Recreation Areas and thousands of local parks and trails.
TCiN knows that it can be difficult to get the kids away from technology, off the couch and into the outdoors. So we say- take the technology with you! There are so many new apps and devices that make it fun to be active outside. Below is a list of suggestions for apps and activities that might be the key to getting outdoors with your family on a more regular basis. (According to the American Academy of Pediatrics children spend between 7-11 hours per day indoors, sedentary with media on average every day and only minutes per day playing in nature.)
1. Geocaching is a popular activity that is like a giant scavenger hunt. Geocaches can be found in almost every community, many local, state and national parks and even in your own neighborhood. All you need is a smartphone or hand held GPS and visit https://www.geocaching.com/play
2. Make a video. Using your smartphone, GoPro or tablet kids can make videos about their adventures in nature. It’s amazing to watch their imaginations grow while making a video. Most videos can be edited on the phone or with simple editing software.
a. Ask the kids to share their creation with other family members and challenge them to make their own and send it back or challenge another family member.
4. Create your own family challenge to see how many parks or green spaces you can visit in a month. NatureRocksTexas.org
5. Go on a photo safari in your neighborhood and see how many types of trees, flowers, butterflies, birds or wildlife you can photograph while on a walk or run.