Experts encourage getting outdoors, using MetroParks for heart health, stress relief

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GERMANTOWN, Ohio (WDTN) – From woods, to prairies and even ponds, health professionals are encouraging exercising outdoors for physical and mental health. Five Rivers MetroParks is helping community members accomplish that goal with their new initiative.

The MetroParks have designated Wolf Creek, Germantown and Island Park as heart healthy trails, with these parks offering optimal environments to achieve American Heart Association recommendations.

Park Manager Chris Landis said they’ve set up the trail for walkers and joggers to be able to track their progress of their workouts.

“If you haven’t been out on our trails before, we have these markers that let you know when you’ve walked a quarter mile and you just work in increments and you get your heart rate up,” Landis said.

As indicated at the beginning of each trail, psychiatrist with Kettering Health, Steven Taylor, said the outdoor activity can have broader effects on overall health.

“You see nature and it kind of reminds you that there are things bigger than us and it kind of keeps our problems in perspective, because nature has been here forever and nature will continue to be here forever. And so that kind of let’s us know that even though we experience temporary difficulties at times, things will eventually get better,” said Taylor.

He added, hiking the trails can also be helpful for those who experience physical effects of mental stressors.

“A lot of times, anxiety is a physical sensation, you know, feeling like your heart is beating really fast, really hard. Difficulty breathing, feeling really tense in the muscles but just feeling really tight overall. So exercise outdoors can be really helpful because that gives a place for all that tension, energy to go.”

And if those reasons are not enough, Landis said the bugs are starting to die down and the weather is allowing for less strain during outdoor activities.

“This time of year, the leaves are changing, it’s not as hot, it’s not as humid. It’s the perfect time.”

While only three MetroParks have been designated as heart healthy, Landis said Five Rivers is working to establish more heart healthy trails. In the meantime, he said getting out to any of the parks for some vigorous activity will be of benefit to community members.

For more information about American Heart Association heart health recommendations or Five Rivers MetroParks, click here.

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