Celebrating Good Health with Hearts N’Parks

A summer festival in the park, splashing, swimming, enjoying new outdoor games, and old favorites… Dancing, biking, bouncing, jumping rope, roller-skating, playing volleyball or tennis or soccer…A festive tent, the aroma of a delicious picnic as participants learn how to grill low-fat foods… I’d like to introduce you to Hearts N’Parks, an exciting program now taking place at 56 sites across the United States, and available to hundreds of thousands of people.

Kids love it because of the good food and active fun. I love it because it can be a fun way to build habits of healthy eating and healthy active play.

Is it working? A preliminary study of 1200 participants was released on June 25, 2003. The results are as exciting as the days in the park. Hearts N’Parks is a joint program of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA).

The programs for children and adolescents take place as after school activities or as summer day camps. In the study, children who participated in Hearts N’Parks increased significantly in healthy-eating knowledge, healthy-eating intention, and in actual healthy eating over a period of 7 to 11 weeks. They also reported learning or wanting to play again an average of 5 fun activities that they hadn’t tried before, and getting better at 7 activities they already enjoyed. (The program is also available for adults, who improved even more – adding an average of 2 hours of new physical activity a week after participating in Hearts N’Parks).

What a wonderful way to address the national obesity epidemic, using neighborhood parks for learning to enjoy good food and good fun! You might want to contact the NRPA at programs@nrpa.org or at 1-800-649-3042 to find out about bringing Hearts N’Parks to your area. Or you might want to take the family to the park for your own day of healthy food and healthy fun. Enjoy!

Published on: July 09, 2003
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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