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June 7, 2011 > Healthy Parks Healthy People

Healthy Parks Healthy People

By Mauricio Segura

We're living in a world in which technology is advancing at an increasingly fast pace; daily tasks are easier to accomplish with each new product that hits the market. We barely have to lift a pen or pencil to write and typing is slowly disappearing; just speak into a microphone and see words magically appear on the screen. And how long has it been since anyone sat down to figure out a math problem on paper? Though embraced by the population for the most part, reality has proven that technology is a two-edged sword. Life may be getting easier, but for some, physical exercise is becoming scarce.

Since more and more things are done on the computer either at work or home, people are spending most of their time indoors. And those are the adults - what about the younger generation? Most people over 30 can probably recall childhood days when summer vacations were spent playing outside from morning until the street lights came on with the setting sun. Kids now are either on the computer or at Xbox all day long; the only time they get fresh air is during recess at school. A joke tells about a father who sees his two kids playing video games in the dark. He asks, "When was the last time you two actually ran? And I mean really physically running, not just repeatedly pressing the y button on the controller?"

Health is being affected at a rate never before seen. Child obesity is at an all-time high, kids as young as 12 years old are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and it's just getting worse. It's not that kids these days are eating more junk food than kids 25 or more years ago, the problem is that pressing the y button on a controller is just not enough exercise for growing bodies.

On Saturday, June 11 the East Bay Regional Park District is hosting the Healthy Parks Healthy People Festival at Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area in Fremont, part of the National Get Outdoors Day. This free event is for the entire family to learn about outdoor recreation opportunities and promote healthy living by utilizing parks to increase physical and mental well-being. It will be filled with outdoor entertainment for all age groups including arts and crafts, giveaways, recreation programs, and healthy food vendors to satisfy everyone's taste buds.

Among the programs which will be promoted are nature hikes, family "learn to camp" programs, junior lifeguard camp, junior ranger program, yoga, health and fitness walking, kayaking, and rowing.

The Trails Challenge, now in its 18th year, will also be featured. It is a self-guided, self-paced hiking tour throughout the East Bay's scenic park trails designed to encourage people to get fit outdoors. Participants can choose the level of difficulty for their fitness level online with interactive maps and descriptions before heading out on the hikes. Many trails are dog friendly and wheelchair accessible, so no one is left out. Each participant will receive a free T-shirt and commemorative pin upon the completion of either five hikes or a total of 26.2 miles of trails. The Trails Challenge was named "Best Innovative Program" in 2009 by the California Association of Recreation and Park Districts, and last year, a record-breaking 9,475 people registered to take part in the program.

The Kids Challenge is geared for ages 5-12. It promotes outdoor fitness by walking the trails, learning to swim, exploring nature, camping, and playing with a team. This program is based on the California Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights, which recommends ten outdoor activities that would benefit every child. Upon completion of at least five activities, children will be awarded a commemorative patch.

Healthy Parks Healthy People was first begun by Parks Victoria, Australia, as a way to reach out to seniors, urban residents, and ethnic groups that may not be using the parks as often as the general public. Though it encompasses all age groups, it is geared more towards youth who are at health risk as sedentary lifestyles have removed them from a connection with the outdoors as a component of healthy exercise.

Since it began, the program has been adopted through park districts in 37 countries. Here at home, both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties are actively trying to encourage 2.5 million residents to get out more often and enjoy the nature our area parks have to offer. The Healthy Parks Healthy People event is an opportunity to give yourself and your loved ones a healthy boost for the future.

Healthy Parks Healthy People Festival
Saturday, June 11
11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area
2100 Isherwood Way, Fremont
1-888-EBPARKS
www.ebparks.org
Free

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