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Multiple Benefits of the Great Outdoors

September 28, 2011

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. - A coalition of groups is working to get children from Connecticut - and across the nation - more involved in the outdoors, from urban green spaces to national parks.

The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) - a bipartisan gathering of people and organizations who want children to "get their nature on" - is spreading the message that the outdoors can be a prescription for physical, mental and economic health.

Danielle Moodie-Mills, senior manager for the National Wildlife Federation's Environmental Education Campaign, says the outdoors - from national parks to Connecticut's urban parks, its Berkshire hills and Long Island Sound - is a huge economic engine for the state and nation, generating jobs and contributing $730 billion to the economy.

"I think that oftentimes you have, 'Well, it's the outdoors, that's fun, but we have more important issues to deal with. We have the jobs and we have the economy.' And what we're trying to convey is that all of this is intertwined."

The more active children are, Moodie-Mills says, the healthier they tend to be.
She says getting children involved in nature can have a ripple effect.

"By connecting people with nature and getting them outside and figuring out, 'You know, wow, this is really beautiful. This is beautiful mountains and beautiful streams and beautiful oceans,' then they decide that, you know what? They want to protect it."

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., plan to introduce the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act in Congress, which will provide incentives for states to support outdoor activities.

OAK not only encourages activity, but also has a Facebook app, so kids older than 13 can earn virtual badges and share their experiences in the outdoors with family and friends. More information on OAK is online at sites.google.com/site/outdoorsallianceforkids.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT