Take a hike to start 2012 fitness pledge

Written by Jim Waymer | FLORIDA TODAY

Want to shed some of that post-Christmas cheer? Put down that new gadget you found under the tree and take a hike.

On New Year’s Day, the Florida park service will sponsor free guided hikes in nine state parks as part of America’s State Parks First Day Hikes nationwide initiative.

The closest hike is at Sebastian Inlet State Park. Starting at 8 a.m. New Year’s Day, a park ranger will lead an early morning walk along the park’s beaches to teach participants about endangered sea turtles and the importance of barrier island.

America’s state parks are promoting outdoor recreation as a way to address obesity, especially among children. They want children to spend more time outside, unplugged from video games and other electronic media.

The National Association of State Park Directors says making better connections with nature promotes physical and mental well-being and encourages creativity and stewardship of natural resources.

“Studies have proven that getting outdoors is one good way to relax and recharge the body, mind and spirit,” Phil McNelly, NASPD’s executive director, said in a prepared statement. “We hope that hiking along a trail in a state park will become part of an individual’s or family’s regular exercise routine.”

First Day Hikes originated more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Massachusetts, to promote healthy lifestyles and park attendance.

“What better way to kick off the New Year than with a hike at a state park?” Ruth Coleman, president of NASPD, said in a prepared statement. “Think of it as the start of a new and healthy lifestyle for the whole family. Whether you’re staying close to home or traveling, join us at one of America’s state parks on New Year’s Day.”

To read more visit Florida Today

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