Health care providers leading walks in BC parks to help get kids outside

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Health-care providers will be leading walks in 100 B.C. parks on Canada’s Parks Day to help families reduce their kid’s screen time and enjoy the great outdoors.

The ‘Outside & Unplugged’ walks are part of BC Parks Foundation’s Healthy By Nature initative. “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.

McCaffrey and Dr. Melissa Lem will be leading an hour-long walk on Mount Seymour.

“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 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 Paediatric 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 BC 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. 

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Melissa is a reporter at Vancouver Is Awesome and has worked primarily in radio and online media. She grew up in Ontario, went to school in Halifax and worked in Northern B.C. before moving to Vancouver. If you've got a story to share email: melissa@vancouverisawesome.com