November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. As part of this nationwide initiative, NRPA is calling attention to the role parks and rec plays in keeping people active and healthy, even those affected by diabetes.
Diabetes affects more than 30 million people nationwide. And while the majority of those diagnosed with diabetes are adults, children are affected as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 132,000 children and adolescents under the age of 18 have diabetes. That’s why NRPA is proud to join organizations such as the American Diabetes Association (ADA) in the fight against diabetes.
According to the ADA, regular physical activity is a key part of managing diabetes along with proper meal planning, taking medications as prescribed, and stress management. Exercise is also an important part of diabetes prevention. An article published online by the Mayo Clinic says, “diabetes prevention is as basic as eating more healthfully, becoming more physically active and losing a few extra pounds.”
So how can parks and rec help? As you know, parks everywhere provide opportunities for people of all ages to get active and fit. For example, parks offer walking, hiking and biking trails, along with fields for organized sports. Rec centers provide health and wellness opportunities as well — including specific programming geared towards children and older adults. Launched earlier this year, NRPA’s Healthy Aging in Parks campaign focuses on improving and maintaining the health and well-being of older adults by increasing opportunities for physical activity through parks and recreation.
One way your agency can help in the fight against diabetes is to encourage adults and children in your community to get active at their local park or rec center. In fact, many health providers are doing the same through programs such as Walk With Ease, Active Living Every Day and Fit and Strong!. Parks also provide opportunities for people to connect with nature, which is proven to reduce stress levels and improve mental health.
Research shows that Americans rely on the vast amenities offered by their local park and recreation agency when their medical provider advises increased physical activity to improve their health. A recent Park Pulse poll found that 3 in 5 Americans say they would take up walking or jogging through local parks, on trails or around the neighborhood if they were advised to be more physically active by a doctor or other healthcare provider. Other ways Americans are increasing their physical activity through local parks and rec include:
- Working out at a local gym or rec center
- Riding a bicycle at local parks, on trails or around the neighborhood
- Taking an exercise or fitness class at a local gym or rec center
- Swimming at a local pool
All of these are ways in which your agency can promote the importance of physical activity and healthy living. So, the next time you meet someone with diabetes (or at risk of developing diabetes), encourage them to take a walk at their local park or attend a fitness class at their local rec center. You might just save their life.
Heather Williams is NRPA’s Senior Public Relations Manager.