Let's Move! Getting Kids Healthy And Happy With The Great Outdoors

First Lady’s campaign aims to reverse childhood obesity with strategies that include time outside in nature

05-14-2010 // Amanda Cooke

First Lady Michelle Obama this week released an action plan from her interagency task force called Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation. The new report provides a national road map of solutions to tackle this health issue.

Goal: Kids born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight

The First Lady’s Let's Move! campaign aims to end childhood obesity using a variety of strategies including outdoor recreation and outdoor education. NWF and coalition partners work together tirelessly to provide strategies for simple ways to get kids moving, outdoors. We’re psyched to share some of the task force recommendations to increase physical activity, pulled from the official report.

"Outdoor recreation and access to nature play a vital role in the physical, psychological, spiritual well-being, health, and development of people of all ages. The current poor health of many American children today, including increasing levels of obesity-related illnesses,

attention deficit- hyperactivity, vitamin D deficiency, and myopia

are being attributed, in part, to a generational decline in the level of outdoor recreation in natural environments.

"Children’s level of physical activity has been shown to increase when they participate in environmental education programs that promote outdoor activity. Children of all ages are healthier, happier, and have better social skills if they have frequent opportunities for free and unstructured play outdoors. For these reasons, children need to be encouraged to connect with the outdoors—places that can promote both physical and emotional health".
Cherry blossoms in front of the White House

The childhood obesity task force highlights fundamental changes in American lifestyles over the past few decades, including a rise in “screen time”. Kids who watch TV or are glued to computers and gaming systems are likely to be less engaged in both organized sports and informal playing. In addition, the report states, “screen time has been associated with children getting less and poorer quality sleep, and insufficient sleep has been linked to a heightened risk of obesity”.

A fun event on May 14 in the nation’s capital engaged Kimball Elementary students in an afternoon of hiking, gardening and wildlife-related games. Senior officials spent some time with the students at Fort Dupont Park, including Deputy Director of the National Park Service Dan Wenk, Senior Advisor to the Interior Secretary Bob Stanton, and Chief of the U.S. Forest Service Tom Tidwell.

The event highlighted the need to expand opportunities for outdoor recreation and physical activity, and make urban parks and open spaces more accessible to youth and their families. NWF’s local affiliate Earth Conservation Corps (ECC) was a partner organization for the event. ECC does an incredible job engaging DC-area student volunteers in Anacostia River restoration projects and beyond. Learn more at www.ecc1.org.

Supporting outdoor education and recreation on public lands, like Fort Dupont Park, is a hugely important piece of the fight against childhood obesity. Looking for an arboretum or outdoors space near you? Nature Find is a comprehensive online resource for families to plug in to unplug—type in your zip to find refuges, forests, and parks in your area.

Learn about NWF’s Be Out There campaign at beoutthere.org.

Read the new full report and learn more about First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative at LetsMove.gov.

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