Updated June 1: As First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled the Let’s Move Outside initiative, expanding her campaign to solve childhood obesity, a broad coalition representing the business and non-profit communities announced a national strategic partnership called the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK). OAK brings together the YMCA of the USA, REI, Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Izaak Walton League of America, The Outdoor Foundation, National Recreation and Park Association and the Children & Nature Network, collectively representing over 30 million members, to address the growing divide between children and families and the natural world.
OAK is calling for local, state and national legislative and administrative policies and initiatives to reconnect children, youth and families with the natural world outdoors. OAK issued the following statement:
“The conditions are right for making lasting changes in the ways children, youth and families relate to nature. Already this spring, the Obama Administration and Congress have taken critical steps to reverse the trend towards indoor sedentary lifestyles with the announcement of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative and the inclusion of the Moving Outdoors in Nature component of the Healthy CHOICES Act introduced by Congressman Ron Kind.
Today’s launch of the Let’s Move Outside initiative highlights the important role our public lands, and all green spaces large and small, play in the development of healthy kids, healthy families and healthy communities. It is time to band together to ensure these and additional initiatives achieve their purpose and get kids off the couch and into nature.”
Read the complete OAK press release.
On the heels of an important new paper that links children’s time in nature to their overall health, First Lady Michelle Obama has strengthened her Task Force on Childhood Obesity‘s message about the importance of unstructured outdoor play, including play in nature. An official announcement of the news is scheduled for June 1 in Nevada by the First Lady and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The Let’s Move campaign, which was launched in March, includes four pillars to help combat childhood obesity, one of which involves increasing physical activity in schools and communities. When the newly formed Task Force asked for public comment, C&NN urged people to send their comments advocating that the Task Force amend its physical activity plank to include active time outdoors — in nature, and in unstructured play.
The recent announcement indicates that the Task Force heard us. Based on its new report, it now highlights the importance of regular physical activity in the fight against childhood obesity and notes:
One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to incorporate activity into your family’s daily routine is to get moving outside!
The Let’s Move blog states, Children today are spending half as much time outdoors as their parents did — and on average, more than six hours per day in front of electronic media. Research cited in the report attributes the poor health of many of today’s children in part to a ‘generational decline in the level of outdoor recreation in natural environments.’ It states that children are ‘healthier, happier, and have better social skills if they have frequent opportunities for free and unstructured play outdoors.’
The blog continues, The report acknowledges Federal lands, such as National Parks, Forests and Wildlife Refuges, provide ideal venues for a range of activities that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. â€¦ Many of these places are located in or near urban centers, allowing children and parents to experience the benefits of outdoor recreation within their own communities. Still, there is much work to be done to extend these opportunities to all American families. The report recommends a comprehensive approach to increase the number of safe and accessible parks and playgrounds, particularly in underserved and low income communities.
All of this is good news for those who care about exposing more children to the joys and benefits of nature. C&NN applaudes the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign for its vision and for allowing its scope to be expanded to emphasize nature in a way it didn’t in its first incarnation.