Let's Move Outside
There’s just something about him—six feet tall, big bright eyes, covered in brown fur. Everywhere he goes, Buddy Bison is surrounded by a swarm of kids, wanting to play with him and learn more about the Great Outdoors. In national and state parks across the country, our mascot Buddy Bison is getting kids excited about moving outside – and teaching them important lessons about what outdoor activity means for their health.
As an incredible Walk to School Month comes to an end, a record-breaking number of communities – over 3,500 – from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico celebrated an active trip to school in October 2010. The challenge - and opportunity - for all American families is to continue that excitement and focus on getting out and moving more each day, every day. Not just during the official month of celebration.
Many of us tend to think of our national parks as remote destinations – spectacular sites that require families to travel great lengths to enjoy. While some parks do meet this description (the main entrance to the Grand Canyon is 80 miles away from the nearest major airport!), there are many great national parks located near or in our major urban centers.
Families in Natchez, Mississippi know how to get moving outside, and make the most of the special places in their community. The Mississippi River Connections Collaboration, which includes the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, recently hosted “Let’s Move Outside Southwest Mississippi,” a daylong celebration of healthy, outdoor recreation. Hundreds of people from Adams and surrounding counties came to Natchez – a city of roughly 20,000 people along the Mississippi River – to participate in multiple activities and explore the area’s famous historical sites.
I recently attended a workshop held by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) to educate pediatric health care providers about prescribing outdoor activities to children and families as part of their Children and Nature Initiative. As a pediatrician working in Washington, DC, I see many patients that face chronic illness as a direct consequence of childhood obesity. Many of today’s children have become creatures of the indoors, spending countless hours in front of TV and computer screens, to the detriment of their physical and mental health.
Since becoming Surgeon General, I’ve led fitness walks across the nation – from Baltimore to Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon. But it was a special treat for me when I traveled back to my home state of Alabama to lead a 1.2 mile walk in Mobile with more than 200 residents.
Now that summer is over and school is back in full swing, kids have less free time - and more homework than they did a few months ago. Fun in the sun at the beach, playing kickball with friends, and riding bicycles around the neighborhood, have been replaced by jam-packed routines that can make even the hardiest little adventurers beg for a nap. But outdoor fun doesn’t have to end just because school work has begun!
Fall is the perfect time to get outside. Get moving into the new school year with National Public Lands Day on September 25. It’s a chance to get out, volunteer and have fun at parks, beaches and open spaces in your community.
“Young people are happier and healthier when they experience the outdoors regularly,” said Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor. The Bureau of Reclamation and the Catch a Special Thrill Foundation (C.A.S.T.) put on a series of fishing events for disabled children and their families so they can do just that - experience America’s great outdoors and have fun.