PORTLAND, Ore. September
7, 2011. Each year, more than 170 million people visit national
forests for recreation. And the physical activity associated with
these visits burns 290 billion food calories. That equals enough
french fries laid end to end to reach the Moon and back—twice—according
to a recent study in the Journal of Forestry.
While the recent strategic
plan of the U.S. Forest Service includes sustaining and enhancing
outdoor recreation opportunities, the benefits
of exercise and outdoor recreation also are recognized by President
Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative to reconnect
Americans with their landscapes, as well as the First Lady’s
Let’s Move Outside campaign.
But how exactly do our national
forests contribute to helping people develop a healthier lifestyle?
A recently published study may reveal
“We examined the extent that national forests might provide public health
benefits by estimating the net energy expended for a range of outdoor activities
engaged in by visitors to national forest lands,” explains research forester
Jeff Kline. “We did this by combining data describing national forest
recreation activities with data characterizing the calories expended with each
type of physical activity.”
Kline, a scientist with the Forest Service’s
Pacific Northwest Research Station, and Oregon State University co-authors,
Randall Rosenberger and Eric
White, recently published their findings in the September issue of the Journal
of Forestry. The article, “A National Assessment of Physical Activity
in U.S. National Forests,” contends that national forests can help
Americans meet guidelines for regular physical activity set by the Centers
Control and Prevention.
Key findings from the study include:
- Hiking, walking, downhill
skiing, fishing, relaxing, camping, relaxing, and driving for
pleasure are among the primary activities
accounting for about
(68 percent) of all visits to the national forests.
- Annual energy expenditures
in national forest recreation represent 6.8 million adults
and almost 317,000 children meeting the Centers of Disease
- Prevention guidelines regarding regular aerobic physical activity
for a year.
The distribution of these health benefits may vary with proximity
and income. Fifty-two percent of recreation visits are by people
who live within 60 miles of a national forest. These “local” visitors
are more likely to come from lower household income groups than
non-local visitors, with 45 percent earning less than $50,000 per
year versus 25 percent for non-local visitors.
National forests in the Western states account for the greatest
share of all outdoor recreation visits (75 percent) and associated
net energy expenditures (75 percent). However, national forests
in the Northeast and Southeast yield proportionally greater net
energy expenditures because they are closer to major population
centers compared to the west, and their visitors tend to engage
in more intensive physical activities.
To read the entire report, visit www.safnet.org/publications/jof/index.cfm.
The PNW Research Station is headquartered in Portland, Oregon.
It has 11 laboratories and centers located in Alaska, Oregon,
and Washington and about 425 employees.