Tag Archives: health

It’s Fresh Air Fitness Month!

Guest blog post by Marla Hollander, American Heart Association

What could be better than taking a Walk in Nature with your kids?

Thinking back on my childhood, my experience with nature as a kid was confined to the suburban neighborhood I grew up in including the neighborhood park, Grover’s Mill pond (yes, the infamous “War of the Worlds” 1938 Martian landing site) and the Jersey shore.  Not so shabby for nature connections. Climbing trees in the spring, skating on the pond in winter and swimming in the ocean all summer were all things I loved and just did. Fast forward a couple decades and I discovered that my hometown was also home to the D & R Canal state park, Sourland Mountain preserve and the Mountain Lakes Preserve, all providing incredible opportunities to get outdoors and move, yet I was unaware of their existence as a kid.  While we had the ability to access these incredible resources, my family didn’t know how or why to access them.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that children engage in 60 minutes of physical activity every day, yet a report brief from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finds that only about half of kids meet that recommendation.  Additionally, a 2011 study in the Journal of Pediatrics reported that television viewing by young children has been associated with cognitive and speech delays, aggressive behavior, decreased academic performance, and obesity. The time that young children spend watching TV or using a computer or tablet has replaced the time spent on other activities like reading and active or imaginative play – and particularly outdoor play.

We need to change this script!  We need to help our kids get active.

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My kids canoeing in Lake Needwood, Maryland. Photo credit: Marla Hollander

Providing safe places to play and be physically active throughout every child’s day is critical to heart health and keeping kids healthy. Getting outdoors with one’s family is a great way to spend time together and model healthy behaviors and one of my favorite activities!

My real passion for being an active outdoors person was not tapped until my early adulthood when friends and travel introduced me to what I call the wild – places like Crater Lake in the Oregon and Cape Tribulation in Australia. Now, an avid hiker, I’ve lived in four states with my kids and with each relocation, we look for how we can get out moving and connecting with nature as a family.  In Sarasota, we loved kayaking the protected mangroves; in San Diego it was surfing and hiking Torrey Pines State Park; in Washington, DC we spend a lot of time exploring the local Rock Creek Trail system that meanders throughout the city. Many communities have natural resources within reach – but we need to look for them, expose our kids early and often, and make them safe and accessible. In doing so we can help ensure they are getting the physical activity they need, and I can’t think of a better way to get active and connected as a family.

Throughout the month of July, the American Heart Association, the world’s leading voluntary organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke, has been challenging everyone to get outdoors and get moving. The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) supports and embraces this challenge and I am grateful to be a guest blogger for OAK connecting nature, health and kids.

Fresh Air Fitness Month is part of the association’s Healthy For Good™ movement, which inspires people everywhere to make lasting changes in their health and their lives, one small step at a time.

Marla Hollander resides in Kensington MD, is a mom of two middle school kids, and a staff member of Voices of Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to ensure all kids have access to healthy food, beverages and safe places to be physically active.  She also serves on OAK’s steering committee.

EVERY KID IN A PARK – YOUTH BLOG SERIES: POST #2

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Every Kid in a Park – Youth Blog Series, Post #2
Interview with Evie E. & Louise R., former Every Kid in a Park pass users

Evie E. and Louise R. are both rising sixth-graders at Creative Minds International Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. They were both invited to speak at OAK’s Congressional Lunch Briefing on July 11, 2017 to talk about their experiences outdoors. Before the event, they were interviewed by Isabel Argoti, OAK/NPS Community Assistance Fellow, and Katie Brantley, Sierra Club Digital Storytelling Fellow. Evie and Louise’s speeches given during the briefing were recorded live.


What’s your name, age, and grade?

Evie: I’m Evie and I’m 11 going into the sixth grade.

Louise: And I’m Louise, also 11 and also going into the sixth grade.

What do you love about the outdoors and what do you like to do outside?

Evie: Outdoors is peaceful and relaxing, and you can think about stuff. And it helps things grow, which it also helps us grow. Like vegetables.

Louise: I like the feeling of being independent outdoors, where you can just free-roam and explore and discover new plants and insects and animals.

Where did you get your Every Kid in a Park pass?

Louise: We went on a school trip and they handed them out. It was the US Arboretum.

Evie: There was also another school there.

Which parks have you been to?

Evie: Assateague Island National Seashore, Rock Creek Park, and Prince William Forest Park.

Louise: C&O Canal National Historical Park, National Mall, Rock Creek Park which is really close to my house. And Prince William Forest Park.

What did you like to do there? What was your favorite part about your visit?

Evie: At Prince William, we actually went camping there with our class in cabins. And at Rock Creek, I like to go hiking.

Louise: Me, too. Sometimes with my family, we’ll go on a family hike because it’s so close to our house. And sometimes we’ll walk along the C&O Canal and hike along the rocks.

What advice do you have for a future fourth grader who is about to receive their Every Kid in a Park pass?  

Louise: Try to get your parents to have the family travel somewhere far. Also let the pass be a reminder to you to get outdoors even if it’s not a huge national park.

Evie: I have two sisters–one of them had the pass last year and the other is getting the pass this year and so I think my advice would be to look through the book or website when you first get the pass. Try to choose a park that is the farthest away from you so you can go on a long road trip and so you can find stuff that wouldn’t be in a park nearer to you, so you can learn new stuff and discover new, fun, exciting things.

 

The school trips in which Evie and Louise received their passes were sponsored field trips by the National Park Trust. The National Park Trust, a 501(c)(3) non profit, is dedicated to preserving parks today and creating park stewards for tomorrow, and is an incredible supporter of the Every Kid in a Park program. Since 2009,​ the Buddy Bison School Program and national Kids to Parks Day have engaged 3,000,000 students across the country with our nation’s parks, public lands and waters (ParkTrust.org).

 

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EKIP Postcards

This is the second in a series of blogs highlighting students who have used, or are gearing up to use, their Every Kid in a Park pass.

Boston Fourth Graders Receive Passes to Visit Public Lands and Waters

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, June 23, 2017

Contact:   Grace Lee, 301-706-3407, grace@parktrust.org  
Liza Stearns, 617-201-7217, liza_stearns@nps.gov
Brenna Muller, 202-630-1864, brenna.muller@sierraclub.org  

Boston Fourth Graders Receive Passes to Visit Public Lands and Waters

Every Kid in a Park Event at Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area connects children with nature

[Boston, MA] – Today, partners came together to ensure kids across America can experience our national parks and public lands. The National Park Trust, The North Face, and the Outdoors Alliance for Kids joined the National Park Service to co-host an Every Kid in a Park event at Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park for 90 fourth graders from The Donald McKay K-8 School. This is the final event in a special Every Kid in a Park event series hosted in five different cities (NYC, D.C, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston), all funded by The North Face Explore Fund.

“We are proud to support the Every Kid in a Park initiative and programs that expose participants to the beauty and joy of the outdoors,” said Ann Krcik, Senior Director of Outdoor Exploration at The North Face. “Through the Explore Fund grants, we are building a community of outdoor explorers and inspiring people to love and protect the places where we play.”

The students received one-year entry passes to America’s federal public lands and waters through the Every Kid in a Park program, which seeks to connect young people with the great outdoors. By inspiring children to visit their national parks and public lands, waters and shores, the program aims to develop a lifelong connection to these special places shared by all Americans.

“We were delighted to work with The North Face and the Outdoors Alliance for Kids to connect local Boston 4th graders to Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. They experienced a fun-filled day learning about local wildlife, history and outdoor recreation — and the importance of enjoying and preserving these special places,” stated Grace Lee, Executive Director, National Park Trust.

“Providing Boston youth with opportunities to discover and forge connections with the natural wonders and complex stories of their public lands is key to cultivating the next generation of park stewards and civic leaders,” said Michael Creasey, Superintendent of the National Parks of Boston.  “We are delighted to welcome these Boston fourth graders to Spectacle Island and trust that the ferry will depart at the end of the day with 90 public lands ambassadors eager to introduce their harbor islands to family and friends.”

“The Outdoors Alliance for Kids is honored to support the Every Kid in a Park program to connect all kids, starting with fourth graders, with the outdoors,” said OAK co-founder and chair, Jackie Ostfeld. “Too few children have opportunities to explore and enjoy the natural world and programs like this ensure more kids have the chance to visit and learn about our shared public lands, waters and shores.

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About The North Face®: The North Face, a division of VF Outdoor, Inc., was founded in 1966 with the goal of preparing outdoor athletes for the rigors of their next adventure. Today we are the world’s leading outdoor brand, creating athlete-tested, expedition-proven products that help people explore and test the limits of human potential. We protect our outdoor playgrounds and minimize our impact on the planet through programs that encourage sustainability. The North Face products are available at premium and specialty retail sporting goods stores globally and we are headquartered in California on a LEED Platinum-certified campus. For more information, please visit www.thenorthface.com.

About the National Park Service: More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 413 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit us at www.nps.gov, on Facebook www.facebook.com/nationalparkservice, Twitter www.twitter.com/natlparkservice, and YouTube www.youtube.com/nationalparkservice.

About the National Parks of Boston: The National Parks of Boston is a collection of three National Park Service sites – Boston National Historical Park, Boston African American National Historic Site, and Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park. Established by individual legislation and for designated purposes, the three units have come together under a unified organizational umbrella to collaborate in ways that celebrate our nation’s cultural heritage, reconnect people to history and nature, and provide outdoor recreation opportunities on land and on the water. Visit us at www.nps.gov/boaf, www.nps.gov/bost, www.bostonharborislands.org.

About the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation:  Beaches, wooded parks, parkways, and reservoirs – All of these places make up the Massachusetts State Parks. You can find a place to go in all regions of the Commonwealth from Pittsfield to the Boston Harbor Islands. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR, Mass Parks) is one of 12 managing partners of this national and state park and owns and manages more than half of the islands including Georges and Spectacle Islands as well as the other four islands that are serviced by the public ferry.

About Boston Harbor Now:  In April of 2016, Boston Harbor Now launched as a new non-profit civic organization with a bold mission: to ensure a vibrant and sustainable future for Boston’s harbor, waterfront and islands.   Boston Harbor Now works with public and private partners to expand access to open space and recreational, educational and cultural opportunities harbor-wide, to plan for and build an integrated and expanded water transportation system, and to foster economic development and growth that is resilient to sea-level rise and the effects of climate change. Boston Harbor Now plays a unique role as the non-profit partner of the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park raising funds to help the National Park Service, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the City of Boston and hundreds of youth and community organizations to build visitor amenities and recreational infrastructure like campsites and trail networks, to provide interpretive, educational and cultural programs and volunteer opportunities, and to provide free access for children and families from low-income communities.

About National Park Trust: National Park Trust, a 501(c)(3) non profit, is dedicated to preserving parks today and creating park stewards for tomorrow. Since 1983, NPT has completed land projects benefiting 40 national parks. Since 2009,​ our Buddy Bison School Program and national Kids to Parks Day have engaged 3,000,000 students across the country with our nation’s parks, public lands and waters (ParkTrust.org).

About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK): OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together nearly 100 businesses and organizations, representing more than 60 million individuals to address the growing divide between children, youth and the natural world. For more information: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

RELEASE: NYC 4th graders get free passes to visit public lands and waters

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Contact:
Virginia Cramer, 804-519-8449, Virginia.Cramer@sierraclub.org
Jackie Ostfeld, 202-821-8877, Jackie.Ostfeld@sierraclub.org

NYC 4th graders get free passes to visit public lands and waters OAK helps launch the Every Kid in a Park initiative in Harlem

Today, the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, members of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, and other groups helped to launch the Obama Administration’s Every Kid in a Park NYC initiative with an event in Harlem. Two hundred fourth-grade students were among those joining the event at Hamilton Grange National Memorial. The students received free passes to America’s public lands and waters through the Every Kid in a Park initiative, which seeks to connect young people with the great outdoors by granting free entry to national parks for all fourth-graders and their families.

In response, participating members of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids issued the following statements:

“The North Face is pleased to support the Every Kid in a Park initiative. At The North Face, we believe that exposure to the outdoors in a child’s life has many benefits, including being great for physical health, instilling a sense of adventure and developing a respect for the environment that remains in adulthood,” said Todd Spaletto, President of The North Face. “We are proud to support President Obama in his effort to combat the decline of young people’s connection to the outdoors by introducing all young people to the wonders of exploration. Our hope is that by encouraging kids to explore early, they will go on to become conservation-minded, long-term stewards who will pass these beliefs on to the next generation.”

“The Sierra Club is proud to support the Every Kid in a Park initiative. As a child I spent countless hours in the woods and streams near my house and was lucky enough to hike, camp, and canoe with my family and classmates. America’s public lands belong to all of us, yet today too many kids are missing out on the joys of spending time outside. All children should have a chance to experience the wonders of nature no matter where they live. As today’s event demonstrates it’s possible to connect with the outdoors even in urban centers,” said Sierra Club Board Member and New York resident Loren Blackford, who attended the event. “As we celebrate the centennial of our National Parks, the Sierra Club is committed to engaging the next generation and connecting them with the next century of conservation.”

“From Harlem to Yellowstone, Wilderness Inquiry wholeheartedly supports the Every Kid in a Park initiative,” said Wilderness Inquiry Executive Director Greg Lais. “It’s amazing to see how excited these kids are when they first lay eyes on a Voyageur canoe. New York City is a priority for Wilderness Inquiry and we look forward to getting more kids from the Big Apple out on the river over the years.”

“Discover Outdoors is proud to be a supporter of Every Kid in a Park,” said Discover Outdoors Founder and Executive Director, Kirk Reynolds. “To lead tomorrow, New York City students need to be connected to nature today, where science is learned experientially, and character is shaped through team-work and adventure.”

“The Outdoors Alliance for Kids is honored to participate in today’s NYC launch and to support the Every Kid in a Park initiative for fourth graders across America,” said OAK Co-Founder and Chair, Jackie Ostfeld. “Too few children have opportunities to explore and enjoy the natural world. OAK members are answering President Obama’s call to action to connect America’s 4th graders with our public lands because we believe that time spent outdoors leads to healthier kids and a healthier planet.”

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About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK)
OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together more than eighty businesses and organizations including the American Heart Association, Children & Nature Network, Izaak Walton League of America, National Recreation and Park Association, National Wildlife Federation, The North Face, Public Lands Service Coalition (a program of The Corps Network), REI, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society and the YMCA of the USA to address the growing divide between children, youth and the natural world. For more information:www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

RELEASE: OUTDOORS ALLIANCE FOR KIDS SUPPORTS HEALTHY KIDS OUTDOORS ACT TO RECONNECT KIDS WITH NATURE

For Immediate Release                                                                    

Contacts:
Christina Batcheler
703-438-6098
batchelerc@nwf.org

Outdoors Alliance for Kids Supports Healthy Kids Outdoors Act to Reconnect Kids with Nature 

New Legislation Aims To Connect Youth with the Outdoors

WASHINGTON (April 23, 2015) – Today, Senator Martin Heinrich (NM) and Congressman Ron Kind (WI) introduced legislation aimed at connecting youth and families with the outdoors. Supported by the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK), the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act would support state, local and federal strategies to reconnect Americans with nature, keep wildlife wild, and support future economic growth and conservation efforts.

Those who do not spend time in nature are less likely to protect it – leaving our nation’s vast national resources at risk. This legislation will give more visibility to the value of alternative and expanding learning environments can have in significantly improving academic achievement in reading, math and science and will encourage kids and families to be active outdoors through unstructured play; outdoor recreation such as camping, hiking, hunting and fishing; public health initiatives; outdoor learning centers; service learning and other programs.

“The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act would enrich the lives of our children, improve public health, and benefit our outdoor recreation economy,” Senator Heinrich said. By taking a holistic approach to improving child well-being, this bill would provide our kids the opportunity to gain hands-on outdoor education, while giving them an introduction and lifelong connection to conservation and all that the natural world has to offer.”

“Young people today spend less time participating in outdoor activities than ever before,” Congressman Kind said. “This bill gives our state and local leaders the tools they need to find new ways to promote active, healthy outdoor lifestyles for kids in Wisconsin and across the nation. If they start early in life, young people will be more likely to care for their health and natural surroundings as adults and then pass those values on to future generations.”

The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act would provide incentives for states to develop dynamic five-year strategies to reconnect children and families to the great outdoors. The act would also compel the President to involve federal agencies and national partners to create a similar plan at the national level and support further research documenting the health, conservation and other benefits of active time spent outdoors in the natural world.

“NWF has worked to connect people with nature for decades so that they will form a deeper desire to protect wildlife and wild places,” said Kevin Coyle, vice president for education and training for National Wildlife Federation.  “We applaud Congressman Kind and Senator Heinrich for introducing legislation to bring families outside seeing wild places on a regular basis.”

“A life-long passion for conservation, hunting and fishing, and active outdoor recreation begins at a young age,” said Scott Kovarovics, executive director of the Izaak Walton League of America. “The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act will help children and families to get outside and experience the natural world around them.”

“Many local and state park agencies currently partner with schools to provide environmental education programs, where trained and knowledgeable staff provide benefits to students and teachers through “hands-on” learning,” said Kevin O’Hara, Vice President of Government Affairs for the National Recreation and Park Association. These experiences stimulate the student’s learning process and curiosity in a manner that cannot be achieved simply through the classroom. By educating our children on the importance of the environment and world around them through “field” experience, we promote the future of conservation, stewardship, as well as advances in environmental science. The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act provides important incentives aimed at reconnecting youth and families with nature and fostering education and stewardship.”

“Childhood is the best time for instilling a love for the outdoors,” says Jackie Ostfeld, Nearby Nature Director at the Sierra Club and Co-Founding Chair of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids. “Whether it’s a lack of access to nearby parks and green spaces, safety, school budget cuts or over-scheduled families, today’s kids face many challenges to spending time in nature with repercussions for their health and wellness. The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act will help tear down barriers and encourage greater participation in the natural world. Sierra Club and the Outdoors Alliance for Kids applaud Senator Heinrich and Congressman Kind for their leadership to improve the health and wellness of kids across this nation by getting them active and outdoors.”

“The Y believes that when kids stretch their legs, explore the outdoors, and connect with the world around them, they are improving their physical, social, and emotional health,” said YMCA of the USA Senior Director of Health Partnerships and Policy Katie Adamson. “The confidence and creativity that develop as a result of experiencing nature is an essential component of the holistic development of youth. The Y is excited to work with Senator Heinrich and Congressman Kind on this important effort to connect children and their families with nature.”

“Now, more than ever, it is important to develop new strategies for getting children outdoors reconnecting to nature,” said Paul Sanford, National Director of Recreation Policy for The Wilderness Society. “Kids need stimulating alternatives to smart phones and computers, alternatives that are educational and promote physical activity. The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act will encourage states to provide opportunities for recreation and education in the great outdoors. We thank Senator Heinrich and Congressman Kind for championing this important legislation.”

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About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK): OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together more than seventy businesses and organizations including the American Heart Association, Children & Nature Network, Izaak Walton League of America, National Recreation and Park Association, National Wildlife Federation, The North Face, Public Lands Service Coalition (a program of The Corps Network), REI, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society and the YMCA of the USA to address the growing divide between children, youth and the natural world. For more information: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

Wilderness Inquiry outfitted over 400 people with PFDs and paddles to get ready to explore the river in 24' Voyageur canoes

RELEASE: OAK Praises Secretary Jewell’s initiative to get youth outdoors in 50 cities

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 12, 2015

Contact: Jackie Ostfeld; jackie.ostfeld@sierraclub.org; 202-548-6584

OAK Praises Secretary Jewell’s initiative to get youth outdoors in 50 cities

Washington, DC –Today, in New York City Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced a commitment from American Express that will support a new initiative with YMCA of the USA to connect young people with the outdoors in fifty cities across America. The effort is part of the Secretary’s initiative to connect millions of children and youth with opportunities to play, learn, serve and work in the outdoors.

In response to Secretary Jewell’s announcement, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids issued the following statement:

“The Outdoors Alliance for Kids is honored to support this new effort to increase volunteerism among our youth on America’s public lands. Opportunities to engage young people in outdoor service opportunities, like those proposed today, help the next generation of leaders assume responsibility for the stewardship and preservation of America’s great outdoors.

The Y is an excellent choice for helping Secretary Jewell to realize her vision to increase engagement on public lands in and around cities across America. The YMCA of the USA is one of OAK’s founding steering committee members, and has been a steadfast champion for improving the health and wellness of children across this nation through opportunities to get outdoors. The Outdoors Alliance for Kids looks forward to working with the administration and YMCA of the USA to realize this bold vision for America’s children and youth.”

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About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK): OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together more than seventy businesses and organizations including the American Heart Association, Children & Nature Network, Izaak Walton League of America, National Recreation and Park Association, National Wildlife Federation, The North Face, Public Lands Service Coalition (a program of The Corps Network), REI, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society and the YMCA of the USA to address the growing divide between children, youth and the natural world. For more information: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

jewellwithkidsInterior Secretary Sally Jewell with Y kids at OAK’s Youth Event on the National Mall, Washington, DC

Time to Create an ECHO Across America: Every Child Healthy Outdoors

guest blog by Sierra Club Nearby Nature Director and OAK Chair Jackie Ostfeld

originally published in the Huffington Post

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just released the 2014 State Indicator Report on Physical Activity, and it’s bleak. The state by state analysis is a stark reminder that most kids in America are not getting enough physical activity.

According to the report, only 27.1 percent of youth in the United States are meeting the national physical aerobic activity guidelines, which call for 60 minutes of moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity daily. In some states, like Texas, less than one-fifth of young people are meeting these guidelines.

Unfortunately, these numbers are less surprising when coupled with the fact that most Americans simply do not live within walking distance of a park. According to the state by state report, only 39.2 percent of the U.S. population lives within a half mile of a park. If you want to see how your city fares on park access, look no further than the Trust for Public Land’s Park Score, which ranks cities on park acreage, access, investments and other metrics. The proximity and safety of parks are increasingly being recognized as a contributing factor to the overall health of a community, yet many of our children don’t have basic neighborhood access.

It’s not all bad news. The CDC’s report also found that when you combine parks, community centers and sidewalks, 54.5 percent of youth have neighborhood access to safe places for physical activity. While I, find that number to be woefully inadequate, it is a slight improvement over the CDC’s 2010 findings that only 50 percent of youth had neighborhood-level access to physical activity opportunities.

The report also took a look at the school and child care environments and found that several states are beginning to provide policy guidance to enhance physical education and activity. For example, 30 states have provided policy guidance on recess, and 34 have provided guidance on walking and biking to school. Twenty-seven states have adopted some form of complete streets policy, designed to make walking and biking safer and easier.

While progress may be being made in some areas, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that all kids and youth are meeting the daily physical activity guidelines, and perhaps even more work to be done to ensure that getting outdoors is a part of that daily routine.

That is why my colleagues and I at the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) created the Every Child Healthy Outdoors (ECHO) Across America Toolkit. OAK is a national strategic partnership of over 70 businesses and organizations from diverse sectors with a common goal to connect children, youth and families with the outdoors. The ECHO Across America Toolkit was designed by a broad set of OAK members and includes major contributions from the YMCA of the USA, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Children & Nature Network, Conservation Legacy, the Public Lands Service Coalition, and the Alliance for Childhood, among others.

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ECHO Across America provides state and local groups the tools needed to develop strong and diverse alliances and a plan to get kids and youth outdoors. The Toolkit includes resources for organizing a meeting of non-profit, community, business, and government leaders in a state or city to conduct an assessment of existing policies and initiatives. ECHO also helps alliances set policy goals for getting kids and families outdoors and provides advocacy resources for engaging governors and mayors to advance those goals. The Toolkit takes a multi-sector approach that includes strategies in education, health, transportation, the built environment, conservation and environmental stewardship.

At the national level, Senator Mark Udall of Colorado and Congressman Ron Kind of Wisconsin have introduced legislation that complements the ECHO Across America strategy. The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act is one of several pieces of legislation aimed at improving kids’ access to nature and the outdoors. The bill would provide incentives for states to develop multi-sector plans, similar to those recommended in OAK’s ECHO Across America Toolkit, to ensure that kids and families have opportunities and encouragement to get outdoors. The bill has broad support from OAK members.

There is still a long way to go to ensure that every child has opportunities to get healthy outdoors and we could use your help. If you represent a business or a non-profit organization that believes all children and youth should have opportunities to get outdoors, consider joining the Outdoors Alliance for Kids. Download OAK’s ECHO Across America Toolkit and see how you can advance Every Child Healthy Outdoors strategies, today.

Looking for some simpler ways to get involved? Start by letting your member of Congress know that you support the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act. Next, take a kid outdoors! Then, make known your efforts and ideas to engage more young people in the outdoors by blogging, writing a letter to the editor of your local paper, or sharing them in the comments below and on OAK’s Facebook page. Collectively, we can create an ECHO Across America!

RELEASE: Interior Secretary Jewell Ramps Up Efforts to Connect Youth with the Outdoors

Contacts:

Jackie Ostfeld, 202-821-8877, Jackie.Ostfeld@sierraclub.org

Paul Sanford, 202-429-2615, paul_sanford@tws.org

Interior Secretary Jewell Ramps Up Efforts to Connect Youth with the Outdoors

WASHINGTON, DC –Today, at the National Press Club, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell laid out her conservation agenda for the next four years. As part of that agenda, Secretary Jewell stressed the importance of engaging the next generation in understanding, stewarding and connecting with our public lands.

Statement of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids – OAK:

The Outdoors Alliance for Kids shares Secretary Jewell’s vision to inspire millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work outdoors. We applaud Secretary Jewell for reaffirming and scaling up the commitment of the Department of the Interior to engage young people with our public lands.

The Secretary’s ambitious plan will help connect kids and youth with the outdoors through environmental education, community health and wellness and environmental stewardship opportunities. Specifically, Secretary Jewell announced plans to do the following:

  • Provide educational opportunities to at least ten million K-12 students each year, thereby enhancing environmental education opportunities for young people across the country. Outdoor environmental education opportunities improve academic and practical skills and create a well-rounded education that all kids need to thrive.
  • Establish partnerships in 50 cities with a goal of creating outdoor play and recreation opportunities for ten million young people in the next five years. Physical inactivity is a major contributor to the childhood obesity crisis and these partnerships will increase opportunities for kids and families to get active in urban areas.
  • Ramp up the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps. Service Corps activities help youth assume responsibility for the stewardship and preservation of America’s great outdoors and the healthy development of the next generation.

The Outdoors Alliance for Kids looks forward to working with Secretary Jewell in the weeks, months and years ahead to fulfill this ambitious vision and ensure that more and more children, youth and families have opportunities to get outdoors in nature.

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 Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK): OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in expanding opportunities for children, youth and families to connect with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the well-being of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together more than sixty national organizations including the American Heart Association, Children & Nature Network, Izaak Walton League of America, National Association of State Park Directors, National Recreation and Park Association, National Wildlife Federation, The North Face, the Outdoor Foundation, REI, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, and the YMCA of the USA to address the growing divide between children and the natural world. Find out more on our website: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

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