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Congress May be Next to Say, “Go Outside and Play”

December 1, 2010

HARTFORD, Conn. - We've entered the food-crazy holiday season. Many families may want to get outside for some exercise to counteract all the calories, and Connecticut has a program to help. A new bill in Congress encourages nature-based physical activity, and Connecticut has already been promoting organized outdoor family fun for five years.

It's called "No Child Left Inside," and Diane Joy, assistant director of state parks and public outreach at the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) explains how it came about.

"Kids were totally connected to their computers and TVs. We really felt, with all the problems with childhood obesity and all, that we needed to do something."

She says the program began with 300 families; this year there were 900.

Joy says the program evolved because of dwindling attendance at state parks and growing health problems with sedentary Nutmeggers. The solution was putting them in touch with nature.

"And then we did all kinds of outdoor recreational programs: canoeing and fishing, and even in the end we took the families camping, so we were trying to encourage them and give them the skills in going outdoors."

Joy says the new U.S. House bill, the Moving Outdoors in Nature Act, is a good step toward taking the concepts in Connecticut's program national.

"What they'd like to do is have the states establish strategies for how they're going to move ahead, and it allows the planning that's necessary to make sure these types of programs continue to grow."

The Connecticut program was started by former DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy, who now works as a top official in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT