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While some of us spend time outdoors, many people, including children could benefit from spending more time in “nature”. There is growing support from research conducted around the world that seeing and being in a natural environment or even in a green urban area has profound positive health benefits for us. The United States Forest Service published a report summarizing research which shows the positive mental and physical health benefits of green space and nature. The publication titled “URBAN NATURE FOR HUMAN HEALTH AND WELL-BEING, FS-1096” was released in February 2018.

This publication reports on the multiple health benefits of being in nature, and even views of green space to include increased memory function, lower stress and anxiety levels, decreased depression, and children scoring better on tests. Stress reduction can result in reduced blood pressure, muscle tension, and pulse rate.

So, when was the last time you spent time in a park or other green space?

The summer is a great time for you and your family to get connected with nature. Hiking, fishing or camping all offer opportunities to explore our natural world. A simple relaxing walk through your local park can work to reconnect and relax you.

You might be asking, “How can I get my child or grandchild and myself reconnected to nature to take advantage of its health benefits?” The answer is simple; take them to experience nature with you. Start with a hike in a nearby city, county or state park. You don’t need to know all the answers to their questions about wildflowers, trees or wildlife, just help them explore, relax and learn together.

There are lakes, parks and natural areas in our area where your exploration can begin. Lake Shelbyville in Moultrie and Shelby Counties, Walnut Point State Park in Douglas County and Fox Ridge State Park in Coles County are just a few of the many outdoor destinations available in central Illinois. Local city parks are also great places to explore and relax with an early morning walk, or afternoon picnic. If you are interested in planning a weekend outing you can find out more about Illinois’ natural opportunities, by exploring the Illinois Department of Natural Resources web site at http://dnr.state.il.us .

If you do plan to explore the outdoors this summer, remember to take a few precautions in order to have a safe trip. First, know the rules and regulations of the area you are visiting. Secondly, take along a first-aid kit and sunscreen. Insects can sometimes be troublesome, especially mosquitoes and ticks. An insect repellent containing DEET will help reduce your encounters with these insects. If you have young children, make sure you use a product that has a DEET percentage recommended for children. Finally, know how to recognize the poison ivy plant and teach the rest of your family how to recognize it too!

If you have questions related to Illinois’ natural resources call the University of Illinois Extension Unit office in Charleston at 345-7034. For more information on University of Illinois Extension programming in Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Moultrie and Shelby counties, visit our website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/index.html or call us at (217)345-7034.

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