As part of your New Years Resolution to be healthier in 2017, make sure you include plenty of time in nature. Research shows that spending time in nature is good not just for physical health, but mental health as well. So rather then spending a fortune on a gym membership, and hours walking on a noisy treadmill, why not escape into nature for a rejuvenating power walk?
Think nature is some far-away-place that you need lots of time, money and gear to get to? Not so. There are plenty of parks, nature centers and nature-based activities right in your own community. Texas Children in Nature has made it easy to find nature near you with their website NatureRocksTexas.org. You could even make a challenge for you and your family to visit a new park every day or at least every week.
The National Park Foundation also wants to help you explore the natural wonders of America. Their website FindYourPark.org lists 546 National Parks, Scenic Trails, National Monuments, Historic Sites, and National Forests. America's State Parks can direct you state parks near you. Did you know that there are 10,234 state park areas comprising over 18 million acres?
You don’t need a lot of gear to explore in nature. A good pair or walking shoes is about all you need to walk most of the trails in Texas. There are more than just walking trails to take you on a journey in nature; you can go mountain biking, horseback riding, or kayaking and canoeing. There are even all weather trails that are great for families with strollers or for citizens who use a mobility device. You can start the year off right with a First Day Hike near you.
Playing in nature is also a great way to make lasting memories with your family. Finding time on every ones busy schedule can be difficult. So make a commitment to put that time on the calendar early and stick with it all year long. Even something as simple as a walk in the park after school or work can be rejuvenating. If you feel more comfortable being outdoor with other like minded families you can join or start a Nature Club in your community.
When children are allowed to play outdoors they are actually learning valuable skills. They are engaging their creativity and problem solving when they come up with games. They are strengthening their bodies as they move from high and low energy activities at their own pace. Social skills such as cooperation, and communication are improved as they learn to play with other children. As they run and play outdoors they are also building their confidence with being in nature and preparing for grander explorations.
Big adventures, like camping are great to add to the calendar as well. Some State Parks can book up early during the busy season, so open up the schedule and book those camping trips early. There are other campgrounds that you might consider such as: Army Corps of Engineer Parks, LCRA, National Parks, County Parks and even private camp grounds. Each offer unique experiences and a variety of nature.
Looking for ideas for fun things to do outdoors with your family and friends? Richard Louv's new book, Vitamin N, has over 500 ideas for kids and adults. Texas Children in Nature has created the Outdoor Activity of the Month to encourage outdoor exploration each month.
NatureRockTexas.org has hundreds of local, state and national parks listed on their regional websites. See how many you can explore in 2017!