Family of four playing outside in yard (photo by iStock)
Ohio Life | Live Well Ohio

Live Well Ohio June 2024

Check out tips for creating family time outside, and a Ohio State Parks naturalist offers advice on staying safe in the outdoors. 

Play Time
June 8 is Family Health and Fitness Day, which promotes the importance of parks and recreation. Here is how to make outdoor time together part of your life.

Much like setting aside time for a game night together, finding ways to get outdoors as a family deepens connections along with delivering the benefits of exercise. Plus, there is plenty of fresh air.  

“Exercising together and developing healthy habits expands on family time and is important for the dynamic,” explains Dr. Matthew Lyman of Kettering Health Medical Group Primary Care, located in Centerville. “These early lifestyle modifications build habits to prevent health problems later in life.”

June 8 is Family Health and Fitness Day, which is dedicated to promoting the importance of parks and recreation as a staple for healthy, active families. Here is how to make it part of your routine. 

Set a Game Plan. With work, childcare and a loaded calendar, adding family fitness to the schedule might seem like mission impossible. “Set a time, like when you get home from work, [to] take a short walk together. Build small habits,” Lyman suggests.

Aim for 150. Clocking 150 minutes of movement every week might sound like a feat. “But it’s three days of walking for a half hour and an hourlong hike on the weekend,” Lyman says. Plus, everyone will sleep better afterward. “That can be a motivator for parents when it comes to bedtime.” 

Mix It Up. Brainstorm activities as a family and take turns choosing fun outings like visiting a local playground or trail and make a list of activities to try such as kayaking. Remember to include easy wins like bike rides, backyard games or a stroll at a nearby park. “Many local parks are geared toward kids with nature presentations they can read along trails,” Lyman says. 

Family hiking in nature (photo by iStock)
Happy Trails 
Hiking is fun, but being prepared will make sure your trek is a smooth one. An Ohio Department of Natural Resources naturalist shares pointers for exploring our state parks.  

Nature is good medicine for restoring the spirit, but logging miles by way of low-impact trail walking also offers the physical benefits of movement. Above all, hiking in nature spurs a sense of wonder and stimulates the senses in ways other activities don’t. 

There’s also history and a sense of mystery to a good trail hike, which Ohio Department of Natural Resources naturalist Jeff Large enjoys sharing on tours through Hocking Hills State Park, where he takes visitors to landmarks like Old Man’s Cave. We asked Large for his advice on safely exploring the trails that wind throughout Ohio’s state parks.  —Kristen Hampshire

Map a Course. Before your hike, access a trail map online or stop by a park visitor center. “Know what route you want to take and find spots along the route where you can take a breather,” Large says. Also, share your plan with others. “Cell service can be spotty out here, so let someone know where you plan to go.”

Be Realistic. When plotting a course, keep in mind, mileage doesn’t factor in rigor. “You hear 1 mile and think, ‘that’s easy,’ but if you are going up and down hills … it’s rougher than you think,” Large says. Trails that provide multiple exits shorten a hike  and offer flexibility in case plans change. “Also, if you pull a muscle, know how to get off the trail sooner.” 

Safety First. Keep an eye out for trail markings and hazards, and always stay on course. “[In the Hocking Hills,] we have a lot of hills and cliff edges, so the trails are for visitors’ safety and for the surrounding plant life,” Large says, relating that preservation of the natural environment is a park priority. 

Tote Some Supplies. Pack what you need without getting weighed down. Necessities include a simple first-aid kit that contains bandages, gauze dressings, antibiotic cream, scissors, tweezers and gloves. Be sure to tuck your driver’s license and an extra pair of socks in, too. “Bring more water than you think you’ll need,” Large says. “People usually underestimate.” Also pack some healthy snacks,  and take the trash out with you.

Lace Up. “Many of the injuries we see on trails are caused by improper footwear,” Large says. Be mindful of conditions such as mud, slick rock, gravel and uneven terrain. If you invest in hiking boots, be sure to break them in at home before hitting the trails. 

Try a Tour. Guided hiking tours led by state naturalists can open your eyes to aspects of the trail that you might otherwise overlook, including historical markers, plants and wildlife. Check the calendar on the ODNR website. “We also do free kayaking demos, fishing [and] archery,” Large says. “All of these activities and the tours are free.” 

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