Family Health & Fitness Day

May 23, 2024, Feature, by Cina Makres and Melanie Seiler

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For an enhanced digital experience, read this story in the ezine.

Bringing families together for health and wellness

Celebrated the second Saturday in June each year, NRPA’s Family Health & Fitness Day is a nationwide celebration of the importance of parks and recreation in keeping individuals, families and communities healthy and active. This annual campaign is an opportunity for everyone — park and recreation agencies, community members, healthcare providers, public health communities, and sponsors — to discover, embrace and share the power of parks and recreation in promoting family health and well-being.

Parks and recreation is essential to family health and well-being for a variety of reasons, and this special day is all about celebrating just that! Here are just a few of the health and well-being benefits parks and recreation provides:

People, including adults and youth, who use parks and open spaces are three times more likely to achieve the recommended levels of physical activity when compared to non-users. Park and recreation agencies provide endless opportunities for community members to get active — including, but not limited to, access to sports complexes, green spaces, hiking trails, swimming pools and fitness programming designed for park users of all ages.

Additionally, green-space exposure corresponds with improved physical health, including decreases in stress levels, blood pressure, heart rate and risk of chronic diseases ( Similarly, access to parks, open spaces and recreational facilities reflect positive increases in mental health, such as reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression in park users. Therefore, access to parks and recreation leads to overall better health outcomes, which results in less reliance on medications for park users, as well as fewer trips to the hospital and lower general healthcare costs (;

High-quality parks and recreational facilities also counter social isolation by providing both structured and informal opportunities that connect park users with nature and each other. Social connections not only improve health, but also allow park users to develop a sense of belonging and purpose within their community.

To elevate the above reasons, and many more not listed here, NRPA encourages all organizations, near and far, to join in on the fun and celebrate the power of parks and recreation each year. On the second Saturday of June, park and recreation agencies, as well as community-based organizations, are encouraged to participate in Family Health & Fitness Day by inviting families to get active and healthy at their local park or recreation center. This can include planning and hosting formal celebrations, such as an all-day health and wellness fair, or it simply can consist of informal opportunities that encourage individuals and families to explore local trails and parks on this day.

This unique campaign welcomes all levels of creativity, as we have seen agencies in the past host family fun runs, multigenerational fitness classes, guided bike rides or hikes, water lantern festivals, educational opportunities, and many more events that are designed to bring the community together to celebrate the power of nature and the outdoors. What’s more, we’ve seen agencies loop in partners, sponsors and other like-minded organizations to support Family Health & Fitness Day efforts by providing additional resources, meals, giveaways and fun activities for park users of all ages to engage with.

At NRPA, Family Health & Fitness Day is a special opportunity to celebrate the incredible work our partners, colleagues and members are leading year-round, and we hope to continue sharing the impactful stories that showcase the power of parks and recreation through this campaign. 

Active Southern West Virginia

One Family Health & Fitness Day story comes from Active Southern West Virginia (Active SWV), based in Beckley, West Virginia. Active SWV is a nonprofit organization that provides an ecosystem of physical activity for West Virginians of all ages by offering programs led by trained volunteers from within the communities, schools and workplaces they serve. On June 10, 2023, in partnership with Raleigh County (West Virginia) Parks and Recreation (RCPR), Active SWV hosted a free “TRY-athlon” experience for families to try biking, running and paddling in a noncompetitive event. This community affair took place at Lake Stephens, where there is access to paved biking routes, trails for running and an accessible beach entry to the lake.

Stewards Conservation Legacy joined the event as a partner, offering sit-on-top kayaks in addition to the Active SWV paddleboards. The organization also provided staff who led interactive conservation activities prior to the paddling activity.

Preparation and promotion helped Active SWV create a quality event and entice community members to participate. For the TRY-athlon, Active SWV offered free online registration with RunSignUp, created a webpage on the Active SWV website and a Facebook event page, sent a press release, and published posts on multiple social media accounts to promote its event. RCPR and Stewards Conservation Legacy shared the online registration link, social media posts and press releases to help spread the word. Active SWV shared the event with area elementary schools, some of which had Kids Run Clubs in the spring season.

The TRY-athlon attracted 26 participants ranging in age from 4 to 57, as well as 11 volunteers helping the event go smoothly. One participating family, in particular, stood out at the event: mother Emily Persinger and her family of seven. Active SWV held a raffle for attendees to finish off the event, and Persinger’s oldest son won the grand prize bicycle, knowing he and his four brothers would all be able to use the bike as they grew into it.

Sponsors, including Appalachian Power, Aldi, Ponderosa Lodge, Stewards Individual Placement, Mountain State Miniature Golf, Raleigh County Parks and Recreation, and Lake Stephens, supported the event and its success.

Hosting Family Health & Fitness Day

Park and recreation agencies hosting Family Health & Fitness Day events can promote several activities as they engage families in health and fitness and encourage them to build good habits. On NRPA’s Open Space Blog, NRPA Program Specialist Cina Makres recommends that park and recreation agencies encourage community members to:

  • Hike local trails.
  • Have a family picnic.
  • Get outside in nature.
  • Take part in sports.
  • Visit a playground.
  • Enjoy water activities.
  • Attend park and recreation events.

No matter how families celebrate, park and recreation agencies can use Family Health & Fitness Day to motivate all community members to embrace and prioritize health and wellness in their daily lives.

SEE ALSO: A Park User’s Guide to Family Health & Fitness Day: 7 Ways You Can Celebrate on June 10!, Cina Makres, Open Space Blog, May 31, 2023. Celebrating How Parks and Recreation Keeps Communities Healthy and Connected — Episode 136, Open Space Radio, May 16, 2023.

Cina Makres is Program Specialist at NRPA. Melanie Seiler is Executive Director of Active Southern West Virginia.