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Part of a healthy lifestyle

Tonic for the mind, body and spirit

Virginia State Parks are a tonic for the mind, body and spirit. Museums, visitor centers and nearby historic sites make state parks cultural treasures. The recreational opportunities in state parks are endless and easy to see - from swimming and boating to horseshoes and hiking, there's always something to do in a state park.

Paddle-bikes at Douthat give your heart a good workout.But beneath the surface, Virginia State Parks are vitally more important than you may realize.

According to recent studies, 60 percent of American adults and more than a third of America's youth don't get enough physical activity to provide health benefits. As a result, 35 percent of adults are overweight, and the numbers for children are equally alarming.

In the United States, a least one child in five is overweight, and the number of overweight children continues to grow. Over the past two decades, the number of overweight children has increased by more than 50 percent, and the number of "extremely" overweight children has nearly doubled.

As children spend more time watching TV and playing computer and video games, they spend less time being active. Parents play a big role in helping kids get up and get moving.

Be a role model

Be a role model for your children. If they see you being physically active and having fun, they are more likely to be active and stay active throughout their lives. Involve the whole family in activities like hiking, biking, canoeing or swimming. Focus on fun. You can do a lot of walking during trips to the park.

If the kids see you enjoying fitness, they will too.Include children in household activities like walking the dog, washing the car or mowing the lawn. Limit your children's TV and computer time. Offer them active options, like joining a local recreation center or after-school program, or taking lessons in a sport they enjoy. Encourage your child to be physically active every day.

Like adults, children should be physically active most if not all days of the week. Experts suggest at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity daily for most children. Walking fast, bicycling, jumping rope, swimming and jogging are all good ways for your child to be active.

An hour-long, slow- to moderate-paced walk on a level surface will burn about 250 calories. A one-hour hike on the other hand, can burn 429 calories. Biking for an hour at a moderate pace burns 572 calories. Horseback riding for an hour burns 286 calories.

Studies have shown that a physically active lifestyle can:

  • Enhance overall health and personal quality of life.
    Add up to two years to average life expectancy.
  • Improve positive moods, reduce depression and alleviate stress.
  • Substantially reduce the risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease.
  • Prolong independent living for seniors.
  • Improve self-esteem and positive self-image.
  • Help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Help prevent site-specific cancers, particularly in the colon, breast and lungs.
  • Reduce self-destructive behavior and negative social activity in youth.
  • Combat type-two diabetes.
  • Retard or combat osteoporosis.
  • Reduce both the incidence and severity of illness and disability.
  • Result in increased productivity, decreased absenteeism, decreased staff turnover and fewer on-the-job accidents in the workplace.

By providing a safe and attractive environment for physical activity, Virginia State Parks can play an essential part in your healthy lifestyle.