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June is Great Outdoors Month. Bugs, sunburn, allergies - what’s so great about the great outdoors? For good health, more than you’d think.

Importance of Parks, Green Space to Health. Various research studies have confirmed that community parks and recreation, green space and time outdoors is critical for creating healthy, active and sustainable communities. A comprehensive 2018 global study from a major British university found that “spending time in, or living close to, natural green spaces is associated with diverse and significant health benefits” including reducing the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, and preterm birth, as well as increasing sleep duration and reducing stress.

Kids, Playing Outdoors, Getting in the Dirt. For kids, nowhere is better than the outdoors to get aerobic exercise like running and jumping, and gaining coordination skills like throwing and catching balls. Studies show that children burn more calories outdoors, helping to prevent obesity and strengthen bones and muscles. And there’s no need to tell kids to stay out of the dirt when they are playing outside. Scientists say that playing in the dirt is actually good for children’s immune systems. When children play in the dirt they encounter antigens, which spark an immune response. Being exposed to a wide variety of normal microbes helps the immune system respond better to foreign substances.

Where It’s At in the City. Family Health & Fitness Day on June 8 promotes the importance of parks and recreation in keeping communities healthy, encouraging families to set aside time to get outdoors and be active together. Through Lincoln Parks and Recreation, active outdoor opportunities abound: 128 parks, 133 miles of trails, 10 pools, 5 recreation centers and 5 public golf courses offering multiple low- to no-cost activities, especially as a family.

What’s New. If you’re looking for something unique to do outside this year, check these out from Lincoln Parks and Recreation:

• Yoga at the Pioneers Park Nature Center – 9:30-10:30 a.m. Thursdays, June 6-Aug. 1.

• Pollinators on the Plaza – 4-6 p.m. June 19, Union Plaza, 21st and P streets, with the UNL Bee Lab.

• Movies in the Park – June 14-Aug. 9, free family-friendly movies beginning at 8 p.m., rotating between five different parks.

• Free Family Pool Nights – Explore the joy of underwater hockey, water polo or other games, rotating between seven different city pools.

• Free Canoeing at Holmes Lake – 5:30-7:30 p.m. June 26. Life jackets, canoes and paddles are provided.

• Free Crunch and Lunch program – 10-11 a.m. Monday-Friday, June 3-July 26. Free weekly activities for kids who have completed K-5th grade. From noon-12:30 p.m., free lunch will be served for kids ages 2-18 at ConnectioN Point (1333 N. 33rd St.). Peter Pan Park, 33rd and Y streets.

Additional details, times and places are listed in the Parks and Recreation program guide at parks.lincoln.ne.gov.

More Fun. Southern Heights Food Forest at 40th and Old Cheney Road offers guided tours of its gardens and Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, June 8. The day will include yoga, music and fun for all ages. More at www.facebook.com/SouthernHeightsFF/

Check out LNKTV Health at lnktv.lincoln.ne.gov for all things health and wellness, including a calendar of events.

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Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln (HealthyLincoln.org) and LNKTV Health (LNKTVhealth.lincoln.ne.gov) bring you Health and the City, a monthly column that examines relevant community health issues and spotlights the local organizations that impact community wellness. Direct questions or comments to jpearsonanderson@healthylincoln.org.

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