By Michelle Carbery, Corporate Wellness Specialist, Independent Health

Since July is National Park and Recreation Month, now is a great time to discover the benefits of outdoor play and adventure. Regardless of your age, outdoor recreation and activities are good for your physical health, as well as your mental and social well-being. Make it a point this month to venture out to a local park, join an adult sports league or enroll your kids in summer camp.

Benefits of outdoor play

  • Getting some physical activity outside is an excellent way to burn some calories. Research has shown that you are more likely to engage in an outdoor activity for a longer period of time than if you are indoors.
  • A little sunshine goes a long way. Just 10 minutes of sunshine can produce enough Vitamin D for an entire day. Sun exposure also stimulates the production of white blood cells which helps protect your body against infection.
  • Spending time in nature has been linked to improved attention spans (short and long term), boosts in serotonin (the “feel good” neurotransmitter) and increased activity in the parts of the brain responsible for empathy, emotional stability and love.
  • Social interaction is important for people of all ages. It can lift your mood and keep you motivated. So, grab a friend or the whole family and pick an outdoor activity to do together.

Examples of healthy outdoor activities

  • Western New York has some of the finest parks and trails in the state. Bring your sneakers, hiking boots or bicycle and see where the path takes you. You can visit the New York State Parks and Recreation website to find a park or trail near you.
  • A nature walk can be a great way to relax and unplug. If you don’t have time to get to a park, try your own neighborhood. Leave your phone behind and tune in to the beauty around you. Use this time to practice mindfulness by taking in the sounds, smells and sights around you.
  • There are many outdoor volunteer opportunities across the region. From planting trees and gardens to cleaning up area shorelines, giving back is a wonderful way to get active and keep your community looking its best.
  • Start your own garden or visit a local farm to savor fruits and vegetables at their freshest. A delicious way to get in your 5 daily servings of produce and some physical activity as well.

In addition, Independent Health and the Independent Health Foundation are proud to partner with local organizations throughout Western New York to bring you healthy ways to enjoy the summer weather. Visit our website for full list of outdoor programs, activities, and events.