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Health-care providers leading walks in B.C. parks to help get kids outside

Mother Nature is good at improving concentration and lowering stress levels
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Health-care providers will be leading walks in 100 B.C. parks on Canada’s Parks Day (July 21) to help families reduce their kid’s screen time and enjoy the great outdoors.

And Kamloops is no exception. There will be a walk at Paul Lake and at Lac du Bois.

The "Outside & Unplugged" walks are part of B.C. Parks Foundation’s Healthy By Nature initiative.

“We want to target families when they’re just building their traditions and we want to incorporate green time as a social norm,” says Jennifer McCaffrey, head of Healthy by Nature.

“There’s a lot of research coming out of Japan showing that spending time in nature versus spending time in the city can improve your concentration, lower your stress levels and boost your immune system,” says Dr. Melissa Lem.

In June, the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health supported a position statement on active outdoor play – recognizing it as “essential for healthy child development. We recommend increasing children’s opportunities for self-directed play outdoors in all settings – at home, at school, in child care, the community and nature.”

The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends zero screen time for kids two and under and less than an hour a day for kids between the ages of two and five.

Obesity rates among children and youth have almost tripled over the last 30 years. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that kids engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day.

Lem says it’s important for parents to be a good role model. “If I live a healthy lifestyle and spend a lot of time outdoors, I think naturally it will be something that my son will be drawn to and hopefully continue into his adult life.”

The benefits of spending time in nature are being recognized internationally. In the U.S. doctors can write "parks prescriptions" for patients and in Japan, "forest bathing" is an accepted practice that is becoming more popular in Vancouver.

The Outside & Unplugged walks are sponsored by the B.C. Parks Foundation and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

The walks begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 21 and families can register online. Once you register, you'll receive an email with more details. Walkers are asked to bring their own water, snacks, sunscreen, hats and anything else they may need. 

McCaffrey says she's still looking for health-care professionals to join these walks. Anyone interested in doing so can email her at jennifer.mccaffrey@bcparksfoundation.ca.

– Melissa Shaw, Vancouver is Awesome




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