Tag Archives: Outdoor

Walk & Bike to School Day: Join the Movement!

Join thousands of schools and communities around the country that participate in Walk & Bike to School annual activities.

  • Bike to School Day is May 3, 2023
  • Walk to School Day is October 4, 2023 

Walk to School Day and Bike to School Day are part of a movement for year-round safe routes to school.

These events encourage community members to consider:

  • Creating safe, friendly routes for biking and walking
  • Building a sense of community or school spirit
  • Inspiring families to walk and bike to school more often

There are lots of ways to get involved year round. You can start simply by encouraging students to walk or bike to school, then spread the word and build into a larger community-wide initiative. You can also plan and register a local event, see schools walking and biking in your community, and find support materials.

Children deserve safe places to walk and bike—starting with the trip to school. That’s why the National Centers for Safe Routes to School also partners with Vision Zero for Youth to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries. Vision Zero provides additional opportunities for advocates to tap into a broader initiative that city leaders have publicly and officially committed to. Encouraging your city officials to join Vision Zero for Youth can bring more visibility and possibly additional funding, improvements, or actions that benefit Safe Routes to School.

Plan and register a local event, see schools walking and biking in your community, find support materials, and learn more about this movement.

Source: Walk & Bike to School; National Centers for Safe Routes to School; Vision Zero for Youth

Keep Moving this Holiday Season

With the beautiful Summer and Fall weather behind us, we are now into the busy holiday season. Normal daily routines may get shifted, time may be limited, and you may fall out of your regular pattern. During this busy time of year, keeping fit is just as important as any other time of year. In fact, during the holidays, you may consume significantly greater amounts of calories, so balancing out these calories with activity is a great way to avoid any unwanted weight gain.

Tips to avoid the holiday fitness pitfalls:

  • Avoid using the “cold weather” as an excuse to not be active. Wear appropriate clothing and follow the information presented in the SDSU Extension article Physical Activity & Cold Weather to stay safe. Be mindful of dangerous weather conditions or extreme cold temperatures and move your workout inside if needed.
  • If you will be traveling long hours during the holidays, pack resistance bands, small weights, or a jump rope to incorporate activity into your travel plans. If you have layover time in the airport, use this time to walk around the airport.
  • It is very likely that your daily routine is shaken up a little with busy holiday plans. If so, plan ahead for this change. This means you may have to do your normal 30 minute walk in the morning or evening, instead of over lunch, or maybe you will have to break up your 30 minute session into three 10 minute sessions throughout the day.
  • If you do not have a family tradition during this time of year, consider starting a family walk, family relay, or a sledding event for everyone to participate in!
  • If you can’t seem to work out alone, find a family member or friend to be your “fitness buddy” during the holiday season. Working out with a friend or in a group will mean someone is counting on you!
  • Squeeze in activity as much as possible, every bit counts. Walk a little faster while getting groceries for your holiday meals, squeeze in a morning walk before the busy day begins, or do squats or balance on one foot while cooking.

Many of us look forward to this time of year for different reasons, whether it is family, friends, good food, presents, or yearly traditions. It is important to use the holidays for some relaxation, but remember that physical activity can be a great way to do this, especially with your loved ones. Avoid using the holidays as an excuse to not be active, they offer the perfect opportunity to do just the opposite!

See more at SDSU Extension

Fit & Strong!

Fit and Strong program logoFit & Strong! is an 8- or 12-week workshop that is designed to help participants exercise safely, improve daily function, and manage joint pain and stiffness. Workshops include a multi-component approach, with flexibility, strength training, aerobics, health education, and group discussion all included.

Class activities include:

  • group discussion
  • goal setting
  • lower extremity strength exercises
  • aerobics
  • stretching
  • introduction to balance
  • upper body exercises

Register for Fit & Strong! Workshops.

Who Can Participate

All ages and ability levels can participate!

Health and Wellness Benefits

Fit & Strong! can help you:

  • Learn about osteoarthritis and how physical activity can be tailored to your needs to help manage symptoms
  • Learn safe stretching, balance, aerobic, and strengthening exercises 
  • Increase the frequency, duration, and intensity of exercise over time
  • Incorporate physical activity into your lifestyle
  • Develop a physical activity routine you can continue after the program ends

Join a Fit & Strong! Workshop Virtually or In-Person

Virtual: Fit & Strong @ Home Includes:

  • Online Zoom delivery, Requirement: must have reliable internet and audio/visual capability
  • Access to online workshop portal
  • Equipment provided
  • Led by trained Fit & Strong! Instructors
  • 90-minute, live group exercise and education sessions
  • Workshop held 3-times per week for 8 weeks or 2-times per week for 12 weeks
  • Certificate of Completion
  • You will be asked to complete a survey before and after the workshop

In-Person: Fit & Strong! Includes:

  • Led by trained Fit & Strong! instructors
  • 90-minute, group exercise and education sessions
  • Workshops held 3-times per week for 8 weeks or 2-times per week for 12 weeks
  • Certification of Completion
  • You will be asked to complete a survey before and after the workshop


For more information on the Fit & Strong! workshops, visit Good & Healthy or contact the Better Choices Better Health® team.

SDSU Extension logo

Walk With Ease

Walk With Ease is a six-week workshop designed to help participants develop and maintain a successful walking program. Topics covered include setting walking goals, techniques for coping with pain, good body mechanics, tips for walking safely, key points about arthritis, and other supporting exercises to try. This program is doctor recommended, and developed and certified by the Arthritis Foundation.

There are several ways to participate:

  • Virtual: Take a Step (with weekly Zoom sessions)
  • Virtual: Self-Directed
  • Virtual: Self Directed Camine Con Gusto
  • In-Person (3 times per week for 6-weeks)

Register online for the Walk With Ease program, or call 888-484-3800.

Who Can Participate in Walk With Ease

All ages and ability levels can participate! If you are able to be on your feet for at least 10 minutes without increased pain—even if you use a cane or a walker—this program is a great way to increase physical activity.

Health and Wellness Benefits

Walk With Ease can help you:

  • Walk safely and comfortably
  • Improve your flexibility, strength, and stamina
  • Reduce pain associated with arthritis

Walk With Ease program logo

Virtual Workshops

Are you looking to start walking, but not able to commit to an in-person walking group at this time? Join an online six-week session from anywhere in South Dakota.

Virtual: Take A Step Includes:

  • 6-week self-directed walking program
  • 30-minute weekly zoom sessions, Requirement: must have reliable internet connection and audio/visual
  • Led by certified CPR and Walk With Ease leaders
  • Weekly e-mail support, online walking log, and access to online walking support materials
  • FREE Walk With Ease guidebook
  • You’ll be asked to complete a survey before and after the workshop

Virtual: Self-Directed Includes:

  • 6-week self-directed walking program
  • Weekly e-mail support, online walking log, and access to online walking support materials
  • FREE Walk With Ease guidebook
  • You’ll be asked to complete a survey before and after the workshop

In-Person Workshop

In-Person workshops are a wonderful option for creating community and social interaction while maintaining a successful walking program.

In-Person Walk With Ease Includes:

  • 6-week walking program
  • 1-hour sessions held 3 times per week for 6 weeks
  • Led by certified CPR and Walk With Ease leaders
  • Warm-up, walking, cool-down, and health education covered during each session
  • FREE Walk With Ease guidebook
  • Certification of Completion
  • You will be asked to complete a survey before and after the workshop


For more information on the Walk With Ease workshops, visit Good & Healthy or contact the Better Choices Better Health® team.


Pheasant Season Preparation

Fall has arrived. As the days get shorter and cooler, one thing is on the mind of many South Dakotans and visitors from other states: ROOSTER! Hunting provides physical activity, emotional and social benefits and a nutritious, low-fat protein.

Pre-Hunt Preparation
With hunting season right around the corner, it’s important for hunters to start preparing for the hunt. Taking some simple steps to prepare can make your hunting season safer, more enjoyable, and more successful.

  • Clean and maintain your firearms to ensure proper performance.
  • Spend some time at the range to practice your shooting and re-familiarize yourself with your firearms.
  • If you are bringing kids along, make sure they are versed in gun handling and safety practices.
  • Prepare your gear ahead of time to ensure that nothing will be forgotten.
  • Ensure everyone has appropriate licenses and hunter education certificates, available from South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks.

Physical Fitness
One aspect of hunt preparation that is often overlooked is physical fitness and nutrition. For many outdoorsmen and women, fall is their most active time of year. Participating in a workout routine ahead of the season can ensure your body is in shape for the field. Don’t let an overambitious day of hunting take you out of the game for the rest of the week.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), adults need at least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity, aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week. Muscle-strengthening activities are recommended on two or more days a week that work on all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, shoulders and arms.)=

Nutrition Tips
Keeping your energy level high is key for the hunt. Consider packing healthy food options as part of the preparation process. Here are some useful tips:

  • Pack plenty of water. It’s essential to stay hydrated before going hunting, during and after. Try to avoid sugary beverages.
  • Keep raw foods separated from cooked foods by packing them in waterproof bags or containers and keep them in an insulated cooler.
  • Pack nutrient dense snacks that are easy to carry. Examples include: Energy bars, trail mix, nuts, seeds, dried fruits or vegetables, nut-based bars, chews or gels.
  • Take a peanut butter and jelly whole wheat sandwich. Whole grains make you feel satisfied for a longer period of time.
  • Avoid candy bars and cookies. These foods contain a lot of sugar, which provide an initial lift of energy, but after a while as it wears off, leaving individuals feeling tired.
  • Instead of traditional jerky, consider packing venison jerky. It’s a healthier option. It’s leaner, but still high in sodium.

The benefits of hunting can be numerous if you are prepared. Good luck!

Source: SDSU Extension

Where to Walk & Play

With all the great places to be active in South Dakota, you may have a hard time narrowing down the choices. Fortunately, the SD Department of Health, SDSU Extension, and the SD Game, Fish & Parks teamed up to create a couple of handy lists that show some of the different activities offered in South Dakota State Parks.

  • Group activities: disc golf, volleyball, basketball, soccer, and softball
  • Low impact activities: walking, geo-cacheing, swimming, and lawn games
  • Trail activities: walking, running, hiking, biking, and archery
  • Water activities: swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and paddle boarding
  • Winter activities: snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, and hiking

Download the activities postcards or use the SD Game, Fish & Parks’ State Park Filtering Tool to see what activities are available at your nearest park.

Physical activity has immediate health benefits and the best part is—any activity counts! That’s right, even small amounts of moderate to vigorous physical activity can:

  • Reduce anxiety
  • Improve quality of sleep
  • Help maintain bone density
  • Increase strength
  • Improve flexibility

Walking for just a few minutes a day is the perfect way to start exploring all the great places in our beautiful state parks. So, grab the kids, a friend, load up a pet, and take a walk in one of our great state parks—better yet, find an activity and invite the whole gang!

South Dakota healthcare providers can prescribe exercise through the Park Rx program. When participating providers prescribe exercise, their patients fill the prescription by visiting any South Dakota State Park and receive a free day in the park or a discounted annual pass.

Sources: Health.gov, SD Game, Fish & Parks

Physical Activity & Cold Weather

As cold weather settles in, your exercise and physical activity may begin to decrease. Unfortunately, cold weather can discourage even the most dedicated physical activity enthusiasts. But cold weather doesn’t have to stop your outdoor activity in its tracks.

Stay healthy and fit during cold weather months by establishing a plan to exercise safely during cold weather. Talk with your doctor if you have any medical conditions prior to starting a new workout routine. Staying active throughout the year can help maintain strength, control weight gain and improve general well-being.

Plan to be safe and stay fit with these tips for exercising during cold weather:

  1. Don’t dress too warmly. A lot of heat is generated when you exercise that may cause you to sweat and you may become chilled once your sweat dries. Wear light layers and remove them as needed. The first layer should be a thin material that draws sweat away from the body. Avoid wearing cotton, which tends to cause sweat to pool on your skin.
  2. Protect your ears, hands and feet from frostbite. Wear a hat or headband to protect your ears from the cold. Consider wearing a thin pair of gloves under a heavier pair of gloves or mittens. Remove the heavier pair if your hands begin to sweat.
  3. Drink plenty of water even if you aren’t thirsty. Cold air has a drying effect, which can increase the risk of dehydration.
  4. Choose appropriate gear. Wear footwear with enough traction to avoid falls. If it’s dark outside, wear reflective clothing. Consider wearing shoes a half-size larger so you can wear thicker socks. Remember to wear sunscreen to avoid sunburn and protect your eyes from snow glare with dark glasses or goggles.
  5. Know the signs and symptoms of hypothermia. Exercising in cold, rainy weather increases the risk of hypothermia, as does being an older adult. Symptoms of hypothermia include intense shivering, loss of coordination, and fatigue.
  6. Know your area’s weather forecast. Use common sense when faced with extreme weather conditions. If the temperature is below zero or the wind chill is minus 20, move your workout indoors.

If you currently aren’t physically active, you may want to view the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for ideas to add physical activity to your life. The CDC recommends that adults get 150 minutes per week of physical activity a week and children get at least 60 minutes daily.

Written by Ann Schwader, Nutrition Field Specialist at SDSU Extension.

What Recess Should Look Like

Kickball, tag and swinging across the monkey bars may be the highlight of your child’s day for more reason than one, but experts say recess is also critical for your students health.

Recess is a planned time within the school day for free play and supervised physical activity. Recess is a very important part of the school experience for students because it can increase physical activity and it helps them practice life skills such as cooperation, following rules and communication. Recess also helps improve classroom behavior such as paying attention and memory.

Recess benefits students by:

  • Increasing their level of physical activity
  • Improving their memory, attention, and concentration
  • Helping them stay on-task in the classroom
  • Reducing disruptive behavior in the classroom
  • Improving their social and emotional development (e.g., learning how to share and negotiate)

While there’s no law or statewide policy to dictate how schools manage recess within their school day, recent guidance aims to help schools make the most of recess.

Schools should create recess policies including the following strategies:

  • Prohibit using recess as a replacement for physical education classes
  • Let kids go to recess before lunch
  • Prohibit excluding kids from recess as a form of punishment
  • Prohibit restricting physical activity during recess as a form of punishment

Some of those strategies are easier to implement than others, but they are all realistic for South Dakota schools!

Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Ready to Pedal? It’s Bike Month!

Celebrate National Bike Month this May by biking to work, school, the store, park, pool and anywhere in between. Whether you ride to save money, time, improve your health, preserve the environment, explore your community or just for fun, jump on your bicycle and enjoy the great outdoors!

Check out the top five benefits of cycling according to Harvard Health and the Rules of the Road from the League of American Bicyclists.

5 Benefits of Cycling

  1. It’s easy on the joints. When you sit on a bike, you put your weight on a pair of bones in the pelvis called the ischial tuberosities, unlike walking, when you put your weight on your legs. Making it good for anyone with joint pain or age-related stiffness.
  2. Pushing pedals provides an aerobic workout. That’s great for your heart, brain and blood vessels. Aerobic exercise also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals—which may make you feel young at heart.
  3. Cycling builds muscle. In the power phase of pedaling, you use muscles in the buttocks, thighs and calves. In the recovery phase, you use the hamstrings in the back of the thighs and the muscles in the front of the hips. Cycling works other muscles, too. You use abdominal muscles to balance and stay upright, and you use your arm and shoulder muscles to hold the handlebars and steer.
  4. It helps with everyday activities. Benefits carry over to balance, walking, standing, endurance and stair climbing.
  5. Pedaling builds bone. Resistance activities, such as pushing pedals, pull on the muscles, and then the muscles pull on the bone, which increases bone density.

5 Rules of the Road

  1. Follow the Law.  Obey traffic signals and stop signs. Ride with traffic; use the rightmost lane headed in the direction you are going.
  2. Be Predictable. Make your intentions clear to everyone on the road. Ride in a straight line and don’t swerve between parked cars. Signal turns, and check behind you well before turning or changing lanes.
  3. Be Conspicuous. Ride where people can see you and wear bright clothing. Use a front white light, red rear light and reflectors when visibility is poor.
  4. Think Ahead. Anticipate what drivers, pedestrians, and other people on bikes will do next. Watch for turning vehicles and ride outside the door zone of parked cars. Look out for debris, potholes, and other road hazards. Cross railroad tracks at an angles.
  5. Ride Ready. Check that your tires have air, brakes are working and chain runs smoothly. Wear a helmet.

Use the FITT Chart to Get Fit!

Have you ever had a hard time picking a fitness plan or exercise program? There are a million plans out there! Which one is best? Which one fits into your lifestyle? Which one guarantees results? Create a plan that “fits” you.

Based on your own goals and circumstances fill in a FITT Principle chart. This can be your starting point. You can follow your own plan from there or find one that fits within your established guidelines!

If you are new to exercise, remember, work your way up. You don’t need to run a marathon or spend hours in a gym to feel the benefits of exercise. Once you get started, make a plan to increase at least one FITT component regularly to help you stay on track and make improvements. Let’s get started with FITT!

F – Frequency
How many days per week can you make time to exercise?

I – Intensity
How intense will you exercise? Intensity can vary between light, moderate and vigorous intensity activities. For example, walking slowly is a low intensity activity, walking briskly or shooting around a basketball is a moderate intensity activity and running (>5mph) is a vigorous intensity activity. A good rule of thumb is that a person doing moderate-intensity aerobic activity can talk, but not sing. A person doing vigorous-intensity activity cannot say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.

T – Time
How many minutes will you dedicate to an activity or exercise?

T – Type
What sort of activity will you complete? Aerobic activities like walking, jogging, biking, swimming or dancing or strengthening activities such as exercises using exercise bands, weight machines or hand-held weights.

fitt chart

150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity is recommended each week. For some, a serious behavior change is needed and for others, a modification to current behaviors is more appropriate. When adopting or modifying a physical activity routine, it is important to set realistic goals. Too often, individuals expect to lose unrealistic amounts of weight, run faster and longer and start seeing drastic body composition changes instantly. Instead, use the acronym S.M.A.R.T.

Specific is the what, where and how of the goal.
Measurable is how you will evaluate whether or not you met the goal.
Achievable is setting a goal that you can accomplish.
Realistic is setting a goal that is challenging, but attainable.
Timely relates to when you want to achieve your goal by, and what time frame you have to reach your goal.

Putting the FITT principle together, one can effectively plan an exercise routine and set a S.M.A.R.T. goal.

Source: Avera Health Tip & SDSU Extension

Shake the Winter Blues

Wintertime brings early darkness, cold days, and busy schedules. These new changes can create a variety of feelings, including winter blues.” If you’re feeling blue, exercise might be the last thing on your mind. But, instead of falling into a slump and skipping your workouts, use the winter months as a time to refocus and set new goals for your health.

Exercise is actually a natural way to quickly boost your mood! Research shows there are a number of mental benefits, including:

  • Movement stimulates the brain, which in turn causes brain growth and improves brain health.
  • Regular exercise benefits your overall health, including weight management.
  • Regular exercise decreases risk for diabetes and heart diseases.
Staying Motivated

If you are having a hard time staying motivated or finding time to exercise, try these tips to keep moving and fighting the winter blues feelings:

  1. Avoid using the cold weather or “early darkness” as an excuse to skip your exercise. Try working out early in the morning, over your lunch hour, once the children are in bed or squeeze it in while you’re cooking, brushing your teeth or during TV commercials.
  2. Try new activities. Experimenting with new physical activities can keep your mind interested, as well as keep your body guessing. During the winter months, you can try out snowshoeing, snowboarding or snow skiing. Just be sure to do some research ahead of time if you have never done these fun activities before.
  3. Get a workout buddy! Research shows that working out with a friend helps keep you motivated and accountable. It’s also is a great way to incorporate time to catch up and benefit you socially.
  4. Incorporate exercise into everyday activities. Take an active break during work and take a quick walk, use your lunch break as a time to destress and refocus and hit the gym, play a new game or activity with your children, choose the farthest parking space from the store, or walk to get your mail.
  5. Start or join a social media group. Create a Facebook group and invite friends who would also like to fight the winter blues. You can create a challenge to strive for, or you can use it as a way to keep in touch with each other as you work towards your individual fitness goals. Be creative!
  6. Get plenty of sleep. It is recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. When we are well rested, we are more likely to feel motivated to be physically active during the day. Regular exercise can also help improve the quality of your sleep as well!
  7. Schedule it in your calendar. Some people live and die by their calendars. If this is you, pencil in exercise into your day just as if you would a meeting. This way, you can schedule your day around your exercise routine and reduce the lack of time barrier that many have with participating in physical activity. Let your calendar keep you accountable.
  8. Do something you enjoy. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, do something you like to do. Physical activity and exercise should be fun even in the winter months.

If you are exercising outdoors, make sure you wear appropriate attire and follow appropriate safety measures. For more information on exercising in cold weather, read How to Stay Active in Cold Weather.

Written collaboratively by Nikki Prosch and Tara Shafrath with SDSU Extension.

Walking Toolkit: Improve Your Health, Well-Being & Quality of Life

Did you know that walking is the #1 physical activity of choice for South Dakotans? We walk for fun. We walk for exercise. We walk for transportation, and we walk to connect – with each other and with our environment. This toolkit is for anyone who wants to walk more and inspire others in their community to Get Movin’!

Learn what walkability is, why it matters and how to create more access to walkable areas. Learn the basics of starting a walking program and find lots of resources to help make walking easy and fun for everyone.

We’re challenging all community leaders, health champions, wellness directors, worksite wellness coordinators, healthcare providers and walking enthusiasts to download, read up and… Walk! Walk! Walk!

Physical Activity Guidelines: Fall into Fitness

Many consider Fall one of the most beautiful times of the year. Changes in the natural outdoor colors, the arrival of cool weather, and the sight of farmers in the field all make this season a gorgeous time of year. Fall offers the opportunity for engagement in a number of outdoor activities, in a cool and scenic atmosphere. For those who are looking to be more active, this beautiful fall weather can serve as a strong motivational factor and assist with the development of a lifelong active lifestyle.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both each week. For instance, an adult can meet this guideline by walking 30 minutes (15 minutes in the morning & 15 minutes in the evening) 5 times a week. In addition to getting some aerobic exercise, adults should strive to incorporate 2 or more days of muscle-strengthening activity each week. Examples of muscle-strengthening activities include weight lifting, push-ups, sit-ups, yoga, or resistance band exercises. Activity only needs to be performed in bouts of 10 minutes or more, increasing ease for very busy individuals to meet the recommendations!

If you feel you are too busy to incorporate activity into your normal routine, try spreading your activity out during the week or making it intrinsic to your normal daily routine. The recommended 150 minutes can be accumulated throughout all 7 days of the week. Identify available time slots by monitoring your normal daily routine for one week and insert 10-15 minute bouts of activity where time is available. For example, try a 10-minute walk in the morning, one over lunch, and a 10-minute bike ride in the evening to enjoy the beautiful fall weather. Choose activities that require minimal time, such as jogging, walking, or going up and down stairs. If that doesn’t work and you can’t get outside, try cleaning your house at a moderate to vigorous intensity for 25 minutes each day (i.e. sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, mopping).

Physical activity does not have to be another thing on your “to-do list”, you can sneak activity into things you are already doing. Walk or bike to work or nearby facilities, play with your kids outside, do some squats and heel raises while checking cattle or cooking, exercise while you watch television, walk the dog or lift small hand weights while you read. Incorporating physical activity into your day can be easy; it might just take a little creativity. South Dakota offers trails and parks across the state, which is a pleasing sight to the eye during fall.

Being physically active is one of the most important steps that Americans of all ages can take to improve their health.

Park It: Health Benefits of Enjoying the Outdoors

Spending time outdoors, specifically at parks, offers many health benefits to both adults and children. The open space, green grass, trees, and other natural features may improve mood, reduce stress, or increase feelings of overall relaxation. One of the most obvious benefits parks and outdoor spaces offers is a place for people to engage in regular exercise. In fact, the more parks there are in a community, the more people exercise. In addition, people who live closer to parks exercise more than individuals that live farther away from parks. Check out some of the additional benefits of spending time outdoors and nature here.

Parks offer a platform to improve community engagement and increase community physical activity access. South Dakota has parks spread across the state, ranging from the Badlands National Park to the Lake Cochrane Recreation State Park. For a complete listing of South Dakota State Parks and to find the ones closest to you visit South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

South Dakota Department of Health, SDSU Extension and SD Game, Fish and Parks offer an exciting program to increase physical activity in our park system across the state, Park Rx. The program encourages healthcare providers to prescribe exercise—and when they do—patients can take their prescription to any South Dakota State Park and turn it in for a FREE entrance into a State Park for the day. To get your healthcare provider involved, read more about Park Rx here.


Community Recreational Trails in South Dakota

One of the under used treasures in South Dakota are the many, many miles of trails through out the state, both in parks and in local communities. Many cities and towns in South Dakota have started on the ‘path’ to wellness and healthy lifestyle by adding walking, hiking, and biking trails to encourage exercise. Regular physical activity decreases risks for chronic disease, improves overall quality of life, and enhances well-being.

Through a 2010-2011 grant program, the South Dakota Department of Health funded 57 trailhead markers and signs across the state in 18 communities, to promote local trails and encourage increased physical activity. The following South Dakota communities received trailhead markers and signs.

Community/Organization (# of signs and markers)

Aberdeen (4 signs)
Aberdeen Recreational Trails System

Belle Fourche (3)
Belle Fourche River Walk Trail

Box Elder (3)
Nature Trail Arboretum

Chamberlain (3)
Chamberlain Walking Path, Barger Park to Roam Free Park

Huron (4)
Ravine Lake Park
Memorial Park
Riverside Park
Pepsi Soccer Field

Lyman County (1)
Roland L Dolly Memorial Trail

Madison (3)
Madison Recreation Trail
The Gerry Maloney Nature Area

Miller (2)
Hand County Trails/Lake Louise

Mitchell (6)
Bike Path near cemetery/golf course
Burr/Dry Run Creek
15th Bypass
Cabela’s Lake – east entrance
Duff and Norway
Minnesota and Ash

Mobridge (3)
Lewis and Clark Interpretation Trail

Pierre (4)
Griffin City Park
Steamboat City Park
Farm Island entrance
La Framboise Island Nature Area entrance

Rapid City Lions Organization (3)
Rushmore Lions Nature Park

Rapid City Parks & Recreation Association (3)
Hanson-Larson Memorial Trail

Sisseton (2)
Pedestrian Path

Sturgis (2)
Deadman Trail
Centennial Trail

Vermillion (3)
Dawson Trail
Dakota trail
University Trail

Watertown (3)
Red Loop
Blue Loop
Orange Loop

Whitewood (1)
Historic Oak Park

Yankton (4)
Riverside Park
Chamber of Commerce Trail
Marne Creek West Greenway

More Community Recreational Trails

HealthySD is also pleased to provide the links to the other state and community trails listed below. If you would like a community trail listed here use the contact us page to tell us the trail name and appropriate web link.

Hiking/Biking Trails in SD Parks
Kids in Parks
Brookings McCrory Gardens Arboretum
Sioux Falls

Yoga: Anywhere for Anyone

Yoga practice involves breath work (pranayama) to connect the mind and body, as well as to connect our thoughts and feelings with movement. Yoga is a great indoor activity with many different styles that work for all ages and levels of physical activity.

Benefits of practicing yoga

Yoga provides a number of physical, mental, and emotional benefits such as:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improved digestion
  • Stress reduction and relaxation
  • Better posture, strength, flexibility, and balance

Yoga also has been shown to benefit individuals with chronic diseases and disabilities through:

  • Improved body awareness and orientation
  • Development of focus and concentration
  • Encouragement of learning and creativity
  • Increased awareness of our connectedness to others

Choose the type of yoga that’s best for you

Please note: Many in-person yoga classes are canceled until further notice due to measures taken by the state of South Dakota in response to COVID-19. 

One can adhere to safe social distancing by practicing yoga from the comfort of home. Search online to choose from a wide variety of virtual yoga classes and routines. You’ll find different types of yoga, teachers, and styles.

Make sure to select an appropriate class and instructor for your skill level. Types or styles of yoga vary in pace and emphasis. There will be slower-paced practices that include breathing and meditation, to faster types combined with rhythmic breathing.

For example, need to stretch and relax? Try this gentle yoga routine from SDSU Extension.

Want to learn more? Explore more information on the different types of yoga as well as safety, equipment, clothing, and etiquette.

Source: American College of Sports Medicine; Selecting and Effectively Using a Yoga Program

Winter Time: Get Up & Outside!

Wow, it’s winter! Get out and enjoy all the frosty frills winter has to offer! There’s a lot to do beyond the couch for individuals, as well as families.

The following are some great reasons to get out:

  • With family or with friends, activities help to build social skills for youth as well as adults.
  • Outdoor activities can increase or maintain your physical activity ability. Whether it is walking around the block or snowshoeing, you are expending calories. The type of activity and the effort you put into it determine calorie expenditure; the more you do, the more calories expended. The USDA recommends 60 or more minutes of physical activity a day for children ages 6 years and older and 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity for adults per week.
  • You can increase your involvement in community activities in the public and private sector. Lots of communities have outdoor recreation programs geared toward individual age groups, specific events or families in general. The South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department has winter sporting equipment available for loan. A listing of products is available on their website or call 605.362.2777. A brief list of things to do includes snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing or hiking at one of the many state parks.
  • When venturing out, keep safety in mind!  If you are going out by yourself, carry a cell phone and be sure to let others know where you are going and your plans for returning.
  • Dress in layers to allow for taking off or adding clothing, to maintain warmth and comfort.
  • Keep equipment in good operating condition to prevent injuries.
  • Take time to warm up and cool down your muscles to prevent strains and sprains.

Following is a brief list of winter activities and estimated calorie expenditure for an individual weighing approximately 175 pounds for 30 minutes:

Activity:Calories expended:
Walking, 3 mph131
Cross Country Skiing, moderate318
Ice Skating278
Snow Shoeing318

Source: SDSU Extension; Get Up & Out!

Family-Friendly Activity Ideas

Help your children form healthy habits for life and improve their school performance by making activity part of your family life. Most active kids have active parents and families, so it’s important to model the behavior for them. Make sure it’s fun, and really integrated into your life, not forced.

Ideas to try:

  • Plan physical games into the day, whether it’s a relay race or dancing.
  • If you have enough people, organize a team sport at a nearby school athletic field or in the backyard.
  • Map out local errands and do them by foot or bike. The more people who go, the more you can carry.
  • Give every member of the family a pedometer and track your steps. Consider monthly prizes for the top stepper. Their prize can be choosing the next family activity!!
  • Simply play together for 30 minutes, three times a week. Try hopscotch, jumping rope, playing hide-and-seek or even climbing rocks.
  • Take a short hike.
  • Give the yard its spring touchup by raking, piling rocks, digging flower beds, or planting a vegetable garden.
  • Do household chores to your favorite songs.

Spring into Action

Spring, when the days get longer and the temperatures rise. In addition to all of the wonderful fruits and vegetables spring provides, warmer weather gives us the chance to get out of the house and enjoy the benefits of physical activity.

With a balanced eating plan, exercise is important both for losing weight and maintaining your overall health. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults engage in a minimum of 2 ½ hours each week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week.

With planning, you can easily fit 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic activity into your routine most days of the week.

Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activities:

  • Walking (3 mph)
  • Water aerobics
  • Bicycling (less than 10 mph)
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Ballroom dancing

Examples of vigorous-intensity activities:

  • Race-walking, jogging, running
  • Swimming laps
  • Bicycling (faster than 10 mph)
  • Tennis (singles)
  • Aerobic dancing

To increase your levels of aerobic activity, first decide which activities you enjoy and look at your daily schedule to see where you can fit in these activities. If you’re starting from little or no daily physical activity, begin with five to 10 minutes per day. Increase your duration every week by 10-minute increments until you’re up to 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. For maximum cardiovascular health, try to engage in all your aerobic activity at one time. But if your schedule doesn’t permit it, you can break up the physical activity throughout the day.

As you develop your physical activity plan, remember nutrition is fundamental to your peak physical performance. To put in your best effort, you need carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. If you’re highly active, you may need slightly more of some nutrients. Whatever your level of activity, maximize your performance by consuming a wide variety of foods and adequate calories.

Source: EatRight.org; Spring into Action

How to Safely Play Baseball with Your Kids

Gear Up

All ball players will need a ball, a bat, and a glove. All baseballs are pretty much the same, but bats can be either wooden or aluminum. These days, only the pros use wooden bats full time. Aluminum bats are lighter and easier to handle and don’t break as often. There are a couple of different types of gloves, depending on your field position.

Batter up! All batters should wear a helmet while at the plate and on base to protect the head. For better base running, try wearing baseball cleats instead of sneakers.

What a catch! Catchers have a special set of protective gear that includes a helmet, a mask, shin guards and a chest protector. All of these pieces are very important to protect you if you play behind the plate.

Play it Safe

Wear your protective gear during all practices and games, especially if you’re a catcher — those fast balls can pack a punch! Don’t forget to warm up and stretch before each practice or game. In the infield? Stay behind the base on any throw. You’ll avoid hurting yourself — and the base runner. In the outfield? Avoid bloopers with your teammates by calling every fly ball loudly, even if you think nobody else is close by. And in the batters’ box, wear a batting helmet and use a batting glove to protect your knuckles from those inside pitches. If you think a pitch is going to hit you, turn away from the ball and take it in the back.

Throwing those fastballs can really take a toll, so if you’re a pitcher, make sure to get plenty of rest between games, and don’t pitch more than 4-10 innings per week.

How to Play

Baseball is known as America’s favorite pastime. This sport uses many different skills from pitching, catching, and batting (which require lots of hand-eye coordination), to base running which means going from a standing start to a full sprint. To get started, you just need a bat and a ball!

How to hit the ball.

First, get hold of that bat by stacking your hands on the handle (right hand on top if you’re a righty, left hand on top if you’re a lefty), making sure the curve of the bat is in the middle of your fingers and that your knuckles are in a straight line. Balance on the balls of your feet, with your weight on your back foot, and bend your knees slightly. Your hands should be shoulder height, elbows in, and keep your head in line with your torso, turned toward your front shoulder. As the pitcher throws, step toward the pitch, and swivel toward the ball with your hips, keeping your arms steady as you move toward the ball. Keep your eye on the ball, and complete your swing by pivoting forward and shifting your weight to your front foot, following through with the bat after you hit the ball.

How to throw the ball.

Did you know that throwing the ball accurately requires a little footwork? First, step toward the target with the glove side foot, making sure the toe of your shoe is pointing directly to where you want the ball to go. Aim the leading shoulder at the target. Aim the bill of your hat (the “duckbill”) at the target and throw.

How to catch the ball.

Keep your eye on the pitch and stay low with your feet apart and knees bent so you can move quickly in any direction. Have your glove ready at or below knee level, pocket side out. When scooping up a ground ball, bend down and use both hands to scoop it to the middle of your body so you have it securely.


How does Barry Bonds hit the ball so far? It’s science! When the bat hits the ball, the bat exchanges momentum with the ball and the ball takes off. The faster the bat is swung, the harder it hits the ball and the harder the bat hits the ball, the faster and further the ball goes. So if you want to hit like Barry, pump up those arm muscles and take some practice swings!

Fun Facts

There are exactly 108 stitches on a baseball.

In 1974, girls started playing on Little League teams.

A major league pitcher can throw a baseball up to 95 miles an hour—which takes less than 1/2 second for the ball to cross the plate.

Source: CDC; Baseball Activity Card

Keeping Kids Active: Dog Ball Game

Kids need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Most of the time can be moderate-intensity aerobic activity– anything that gets their heart beating faster counts. At least 3 days a week, encourage them to step it up to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Try this game to help build strong muscles and bones:

Use your head and follow your nose to win.

This game is for 4 or more players and should be played in an open area on a soft surface.

To play, you need two balls and two teams. (Rubber playground balls work best.)

First, mark the end of your course, which should be about 15 feet long.

Split into two even teams.

On the word “go,” the first player of each team has to bark, get on her hands and knees and use her nose or forehead to roll the ball to the end of the course, around the marker and back.

When players get back to their team, they tag the next person in line. Every player must bark before they set off.

The first team to finish wins.

For more fun games: PBS Kids

Tips to Get Your Kids Active

Part of a healthy lifestyle is staying physically active.

Doctors say kids your age should be physically active for at least 60 minutes a day. Here are some tips to keep in mind during physical activity:

  1. Physical activity is fun! Being physically active doesn’t have to be a hard or scary thing. Did you know that riding bikes with your friends, jumping rope, playing hopscotch, and running around the park with your friends are all types of physical activity? Any game where you are up and moving are great ways to stay physically active and make your heart, bones, and muscles strong.
  2. Keep it exciting: Ask your friends what their favorite types of physical activity are and make a list of all of them. Make a deal with your friends to try a new activity off the list each week. Who knows, you may learn a new game!
  3. On the playground: Do you sometimes get scared to play a sport with your friends because you think you don’t know how? That’s okay, no one knows how to play every sport. So, the next time your friends start playing a game that you aren’t sure of, ask one of them for help. They will be happy to show you and glad that you are playing with them!
  4. After school: We all have our favorite TV shows and video games, but did you know that too much of those are bad for your health? The more we watch TV or play video games, the less physically active we are. It is okay to do those things some of the time, but no more than 2 hours a day. Ask your parents to help you keep a chart of how long you watch TV or play video games each day and when you come home from school go for a bike ride or shoot some hoops before starting on your homework. Not only will you feel better, but you will think better too!
  5. Warm up before you start. For example, if you’re going to be running, start by walking. Then walk fast, and then speed up to a jog to increase your heart rate. **Fun Fact: A “warm up” is really your muscles “warming up!” When you aren’t active your muscles are cooler and tighter. Make it easier on your muscles by letting them get gradually loose and warmer instead of making them go straight from cold to hot (this is also important after your workout to keep from going from hot to cold too fast).
  6. Stretching after any workout is very important to help prevent injury or strain. **Fun Tip: Pick 2 to 3 of your favorite songs to play while you are stretching and don’t stop stretching until those songs are over. This will help the minutes go by fast and make sure you are stretching long enough.
  7. Water is your friend – the harder and longer you work out, the more you need to hydrate.  **Fun Fact: Did you know that 70% of your body is made of water? Make sure to replace whatever water you sweat out after each workout- your body needs it!
  8. Mix it up and keep it fun! Don’t get stuck in a workout rut. Try and incorporate a new exercise every few weeks to keep you motivated. **Fun Fact: Did you know that your body can get used to an exercise? After a while your same workout won’t have the same effects. Try a lot of different activities and sports to keep your body guessing and to improve your fitness.
  9. Break it up – you don’t have to have 60 minute workouts. As long as your daily physical activity adds up to at least 60 minutes, you are okay.  **Fun Tip: Start a “Workout Log” to track your exercise every day. 20 minutes intervals throughout the day will add up fast- who knows, you may even clock more than 60!

When we are smart about the way we play, our bodies can become healthier, stronger, and faster. Try to use new tip a week to recharge your playtime.

Source: American Heart Association; Hey Kids! Try these tips to Get Active

How to Play Frisbee


Gear Up

Of course the first thing you’ll need is a Frisbee! The most common kinds are made of plastic and come in all sorts of cool colors. If you are planning to play a serious game, or want to play an organized game of Ultimate, you’ll also need cleats or tennis shoes with good tread. Kneepads aren’t a bad idea and are a great way to avoid scratching up your knees.

Play it Safe

When playing a game of Frisbee, just make sure that you don’t throw too hard and always try and stay on your feet while playing. If you are playing a more intense game of Ultimate also make sure to avoid diving for the Frisbee.

It’s important to warm up and stretch before any game. Listen to your body! Don’t play through any pain. If you are injured, wait until you’ve healed before starting to play again. And if you have glasses or braces, wear protective eye or mouth guards.

Whether you’re just tossing the Frisbee with friends or playing a competitive game of Ultimate, make sure to drink plenty off water before, during and after your game. It’s also a good idea to wear sunscreen to keep from burning and bug repellent to keep the bugs where they belong—off of you!

How to Play

Frisbee is a great way to spend time outside on a beautiful day. Just grab your Frisbee and a few friends and you’ve got yourself a game!

One of the best parts about Frisbee is that you probably know more than you think about how to play! Like how to throw a backhand: Just stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, point yourself sideways, place your index finger on the outside rim with your middle finger extended along the top of the Frisbee and your thumb underneath and flick your wrist toward your throwing partner.

A forehanded Frisbee throw is more complicated, but just remember – practice makes perfect! Place your middle finger straight and flat against the inside rim of the Frisbee so that the outer rim is between your thumb and your index finger. If you are right handed, stand sideways with your left shoulder forward, pull your right arm back to your outer thigh, keeping the Frisbee at an angle, and flick your wrist forward, releasing the Frisbee about halfway across your body.

Now that you’ve perfected throwing the Frisbee, you’ve got to learn to catch it. There are two ways to catch a Frisbee. In one, called the “Pancake,” the palms of your hands face each other and are held close to your body. That way, if you can’t catch the Frisbee with your hands, it hits your body, not the ground. Another catch style is called the “Crocodile.” This catch involves holding your arms out in front of your body and clapping your hands together just like a crocodile’s mouth snapping shut.

Once you’ve mastered catching and throwing your Frisbee, grab some friends and organize a game of Ultimate! This is a team sport played on a 70-yard by 40-yard rectangular field with an end zone that stretches 25 yards deep. Two teams of seven people each are needed to play. A team scores when the Frisbee is thrown into the other team’s end zone. Ultimate players referee their own games, making good sportsmanship the most important thing to remember!


If you want to make your Frisbee soar, make sure you put lots of spin on it when you throw. Spinning helps keep the Frisbee from flipping over, which would put an end to your throw. Frisbee designers help you by making the edges thicker than the rest of the Frisbee and by putting tiny ridges on the top to help keep it balanced.

Fun Facts

In the 19th century, a group of New England college students played the first game of Frisbee when they began throwing around old pie tins from the Frisbee Baking Company for fun. Who would have guessed this is how it all got started?

Frisbee ranks number eight on the list of the top ten toys of the 20th century.

The number of Frisbees sold each year is top-secret information. However, estimates are that we buy more Frisbees each year than footballs, baseballs and basketballs combined.

Source: CDC’s BAM! Body and Mind; Frisbee Activity Card

5 Ways Play Can Change Your Day

It doesn’t matter how you move, as long as you’re physically active. Move until you breathe hard or break a sweat and you will be doing great things for your body and physical health. Here are five changes you may start noticing today:

  1. Sleep tight: Being physically active will help you improve your sleep.
    **Fun Fact: Your body and your brain communicate constantly. By being physically active during the day your body can send the “I am tired” message instead of the “I am still awake” message when you are going to bed.  
  2. Improve your mood: Physical activity can give you a better attitude and give you an extra energy boost during the day.
    **Fun Fact: Drinking a caffeinated beverage (like coffee, energy drinks or soda) does give you an energy boost, but it will wear off after only two hours and will usually leave you more tired than you were before. Exercise releases chemicals in your body that will give you an energy boost that lasts all day. So cut the calories of those energy drinks and get your body moving!  
  3. Fuel your brain: Twenty minutes of physical activity before starting your homework can help you unwind from the day and improve your concentration.
    **Fun Tip: Try and schedule your workouts before you sit down to do your homework or keep a basketball or jump rope by your desk for a quick break to regain focus.  
  4. Bond with buddies: Engaging in physical activity with your friends is a great way to bond with your friends and to even make new ones.
    **Fun Tip: Join a community sports team or organize your friends for an after-school game of pick-up. Not only will your workouts be more fun, but your friends will be counting on you to show up helping to make sure you don’t miss your 60 minutes.
  5. Stretch your talent: Make stretching part of your pre- and post- workout sessions. It can help improve your balance which in turn enhances your coordination and athletic performance.
    **Fun Fact: Most sports injuries can be prevented by maintaining flexibility. Ensure your time in the game and not on the bench by stretching every day.

Source: American Heart Association; 5 Ways that Play can Change your Day

Ride Your Bike Safely

May is National Bike Month!

Whether you are biking to school or work, there are so many ways to celebrate the power of the pedal! Here are a few things to keep in mind:

The Basics

Riding bikes is a great way for you to get active. Riding a bike can help you:

  • Get in shape
  • Lose weight
  • Improve your overall health
  • Lower your risk of health conditions like heart disease
  • Save money on gas
  • Protect the environment
  • Explore your community
  • Riding bikes is also a great way to spend time with your family and get active together.

Follow these safety tips every time you ride.

  • Ride a bike that’s the right size for you.
  • Check the brakes before you ride.
  • Always wear a bike helmet.
  • Wear bright colors and reflective tape.
  • Ride in the same direction as cars.
  • A bike crash could send you to the emergency room. The good news is that many bike injuries can be prevented. If you have kids, teach them these safety tips right from the start.

Take Action!

Make safe biking a habit and have a plan!
National Bike Month

Ride a bike that’s the right size for you.

Riders of any age should be able to put one leg on each side of the top bar (tube) of their bike with both feet flat on the ground. Otherwise, the bike isn’t safe to ride.

Check the brakes.

Make sure the brakes are working before you ride.

If you are choosing a bike for a child, choose one that brakes when the rider pedals backwards. Young children’s hands aren’t big enough or strong enough to use hand brakes.

Always wear a bike helmet!

Get in the “helmet habit”—wear a helmet every time and everywhere you ride a bike. A bike helmet is the best way to prevent injury or death from a bike crash.

Make sure your helmet is certified. Look for a sticker on the inside that says “CPSC.” This means it’s been tested for safety.

Bike helmets only protect you if you wear them the right way. Every time you put your helmet on, make sure that:

  • The helmet is flat on the top of your head
  • The helmet is covering the top of your forehead
  • The strap is buckled snugly under your chin

Kids grow quickly—check regularly to make sure their helmets still fit.

Replace your helmet if you crash.

Even if your helmet doesn’t look cracked or damaged, it might not protect you in another crash.

Make sure people can see you easily.

Drivers can have a hard time seeing bike riders, even during the day. Follow these tips to help drivers see you:

  • Wear neon, fluorescent, or other bright colors.
  • Put something on your clothes or bike that reflects light, like reflective tape.

Try to plan ahead so your bike rides are over before it gets dark. If you are going to ride at night:

  • Make sure your bike has reflectors on the front, back, and wheels.
  • Put battery powered lights on your bike. A red light is for the back, and a white light is for the front – just like with cars.

Follow the “rules of the road.”

  • Look both ways before entering the street.
  • Ride in the same direction as the cars.
  • Stop at all stop signs and intersections.
  • Use hand signals to show others what you plan to do next.
    • For a left turn, look behind you, hold your left arm straight out to the side, and turn carefully.
    • For a right turn, hold your left arm out and up in an “L” shape.
  • To signal that you are stopping, hold your left arm out and down in an upside-down “L” shape.

Left TurnRight Turnstop
Use your left hand to make these signals for left turn, right turn, and stop.

Stay alert.

Paying attention to the things around you can help you stay safe.

  • Look for potholes, rocks, wet leaves, or anything that could make you fall.
  • Be aware of cars that are parking or backing up.
  • Listen for traffic and other activity around you. Don’t wear headphones when you ride.
  • If you are riding in bad weather, go slowly.

Source: HealthFinder.gov; Ride Your Bike Safely

Hiking Best-Practices

Gear Up

First, you’ll need a good pair of shoes and thick socks designed for this type of activity. You can start with some sturdy sneakers with thick bottoms. When you begin to take on more difficult trails, try a pair of hiking boots, and make sure they fit! Also, get a backpack or fanny pack to carry all of your hiking supplies. Dress in layers and bring along a waterproof jacket with a hood in case you get caught in the rain. And don’t forget a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses because the higher you hike, the more dangerous the sun’s rays become.

To keep hiking fun, you always need to be prepared to beat problems that could happen while you’re out, like finding the trail if you get lost or stuck in bad weather. Make sure you bring a map of the area you’ll be hiking in and a sturdy compass. Don’t know how to use a compass? Check this out to learn how. You’ll also need to bring plenty of water and extra food, like sports bars or trail mix, in case you have to stay out late and get hungry. The adults on your hike should bring a box of waterproof matches and an Army-style knife. A flashlight and extra batteries will help you find your way if you end up out after dark. Finally, you’ll need to bring a first aid kit, in case someone gets hurt during your hike.

Play it Safe

Prep. Get in shape before you head out on your hike. Try walking around your neighborhood with your pack loaded with five pounds more gear than you’ll actually carry on your hike. If that goes well, plan a short hike to test your abilities on the trail.

Buddies. Take a friend and an adult along on your hike. That way you can look out for each other and you’ll have people to talk to! Also, be sure to let someone who’s not going know where you’ll be hiking and what time you’ll be back.

H2O. Carry lots of water even if you are only planning a short hike. For warm-weather hikes, bring six to eight quarts of water per day. In the cold weather or higher elevations, you can be safe with half that amount. Whenever you are near water, make sure you wet yourself down. Dampen a bandana and wipe your face, neck, and arms or wrap it around your head while you hike.

Blisters and more. To prevent blisters, try spraying your feet with an anti-perspirant before heading out. Bring extra pairs of socks that you can change into if your feet get wet or sweaty — if they aren’t made of cotton, they’ll keep your feet drier. Once you’re on the trail, stop as soon as you feel a “hot spot” on your feet and apply special type of bandage called “moleskin” to the sore area. Also, try using a hiking stick to keep some pressure off of your legs and knees.

Buzz. Don’t get bugged by bugs. Protect yourself from bites and stings by using a bug repellant that includes DEET. Repellents that contain DEET are the most effective, but make sure you rub them on according to the directions. A good rule of thumb from the experts is that kids should use repellents with less than 10% DEET. Get your parents to help you put it on your face so you don’t get it in your mouth or eyes. And wash your hands after you apply it. Remember that stuff that smells good to you smells good to bugs too, so don’t use scented shampoos or lotions before hiking.

Weather watcher. When it’s hot, pick trails that are shaded and run near streams. If you need to hike uphill in the sun, first soak yourself down to stay cool. You can also try wearing a wet bandana around your head or neck. Also, try to stay out of cotton clothes. Keep yourself out of bad weather by checking forecasts before you hike and watching the skies once you’re out on the trail. During lightening storms, head downhill and away from the direction of the storm, and then squat down and keep your head low.

Keep it yummy. To stay healthy on your hike, you’ll need to know how to keep your food and water safe. Remember the four C’s: contain, clean, cook, and chill.

How to Play

Take a hike! No, really, take the time to go hiking. Hiking with your friends or family is a great chance to get outdoors, breathe some fresh air, and get active. It’s easy to get started. Just look for a trail in a national park near you!

For your first day hike (hiking for a day or less without camping overnight), choose a safe, well-marked trail that doesn’t have too many steep climbs. Otherwise, you’ll get tired too early and won’t make it as far as you want to go. Each time you go hiking, try going a little farther and take a slightly steeper trail. Before you know it you’ll be hiking the Appalachian Trail — a 2,167-mile trail that goes all the way from Maine to Georgia!

Fun Facts

  • In the year 2000, 67 million people went hiking.
  • America’s National Parks have more that 12,000 miles of trails.
  • The Appalachian Trail starts in northern Georgia and continues through South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and ends in Maine at Mt. Katahdin, Baxter Peak, Baxter State Park.

Source: CDC; Hiking Activity Card