June is Great Outdoors Month. Especially after the confinement of COVID, what could be better than the freedom of the outdoors? But with bugs, sunburn and allergies – what’s so great about the great outdoors? For good health, more than you’d think.
Importance of Parks, Green Space to Health. Various research studies have confirmed that community parks, green space and time outdoors are critical for creating healthy, active and sustainable communities. Echoing the findings of other studies, a 2022 study published in the North Carolina Medical Journal concluded that parks and greenspace improve physical health in many ways, often by creating environments that encourage active lifestyles and improve access to exercise opportunities. Use of greenspace and outdoor recreation, they say, can also enhance cardiovascular health by influencing risk factors such as cholesterol levels, hypertension and obesity. In addition to improving physical health through exercise, they note that many park-based programs focus on nutrition education and fostering healthy eating habits.
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Kids, Playing Outdoors, Getting in the Dirt. For kids, nowhere is better than the outdoors to get aerobic exercise like running and jumping, and gaining coordination skills like throwing and catching balls. Studies show children burn more calories outdoors, helping to prevent obesity and strengthen bones and muscles. And there’s no need to tell kids to stay out of the dirt when they are playing outside. Scientists say that playing in the dirt is actually good for children’s immune systems. When children play in the dirt they encounter antigens, which spark an immune response. Being exposed to a wide variety of normal microbes helps the immune system respond better to foreign substances.
Where It’s At in the City. Through the City of Lincoln Parks & Recreation department, active outdoor opportunities abound: 132 parks, 134 miles of trails, nine pools, and five public golf courses offering multiple low- to no-cost activities, especially as a family.
What Else. If you’re looking for more active outdoor opportunities, check these out:
• NeighborWorks Impact Bike Tour – June 7, 5:30-7:30 p.m. This guided bike tour will highlight past major development projects, new construction and a project currently in development. The tour will start and end at the Jayne Snyder Trail Center. Registration is required.
• Pioneers Park Nature Center – There’s always something active happening outdoors at the Nature Center. Two interpretive buildings house hands-on and small animal exhibits. The Edna Shield’s Natural Play Area for Children provides a place for kids to dig, build and climb. All ages can enjoy walking the prairie trails, or visiting the bird and herb gardens.
• Community Fish Night at Holmes Lake – June 15, 6-8 p.m., sponsored by Nebraska Game and Parks. Loaner rods and reels, bait and fishing instruction are available free to participants. This is the perfect opportunity for people of all ages, who have never been fishing or haven’t fished for years, to learn. All participants ages 16 and older need a fishing license.
• Free Canoeing at Holmes Lake – June 30, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Life jackets, canoes and paddles are provided. Registration required.
Protect Yourself. Enjoy the great outdoors this June, but don’t forget to protect your skin with generous amounts of sunscreen, protect your eyes from the sun by wearing sunglasses, and protect your health and the health of the community with a COVID-19 vaccine. If you’ve been vaccinated, stay protected with a third dose (booster) five months after your initial doses. Anyone 50 years and over is also eligible for a fourth dose (second booster). Being vaccinated and getting boosters can help protect you against severe illness and hospitalization.
Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln (HealthyLincoln.org) and LNKTV Health (LNKTVhealth.lincoln.ne.gov) bring you Health and the City, a monthly column that examines relevant community health issues and spotlights the local organizations that impact community wellness. Direct questions or comments to [email protected].