Park and recreation agencies everywhere are encouraging families to participate in Family Health & Fitness Day on Saturday whether through participating in virtual programs at home or in their local parks where state and local ordinances allow.

Celebrated the second Saturday in June each year, Family Health & Fitness Day is an opportunity for everyone to discover all the health benefits provided by their local park and recreation department.

This year’s theme is “Parks Build Healthy Communities.”

According to a recent poll conducted by the National Recreation and Park Association, 83 percent of U.S. adults agree that visiting their local parks, trails and open spaces is essential for their mental and physical well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Living close to parks and other recreation facilities is also consistently related to higher physical activity levels for adults and youth. Parks provide a connection to nature, which studies demonstrate relieves stress and improves mental health.

That’s why Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Better Living for Texans wants to remind families that it’s extremely important to keep your family members healthy during this time, which includes all health.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many events may be virtual or tailored to maintain physical distancing. Some creative ideas include:

• Encouraging family bike rides/hikes on trails that are open;

• Host a sidewalk chalk art contest;

• Have “bear hunts” — encourage people in your community to place a stuffed animal in an easily-visible window of their home, so families can go for a walk and search for them and take photos of the things they find; and

• Join a healthy cooking class or healthy cooking tips on your social media channels.

In addition to promoting programs on Saturday, you can get involved in Family Health & Fitness Day by:

• Using the tagline, Parks Build Healthy Communities to promote your health and wellness programs and activities; and

• Share your Family Health & Fitness Day ideas, virtual events and photos on social media using the hashtag #NRPAFamilyFitDay leading up to and on Saturday.

For more information, visit: www.nrpa.org/familyfitness; and for more family health and fitness ideas visit: agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/coronavirus/#Parenting.

Sharon Mitchiner is a nutrition education associate for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service of Galveston County.

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