Whether you’re 5 or 55, mom’s admonition is still a good one: Go outside and play! With warmer temperatures arriving this month, March is an ideal time to break the winter hibernation and head outdoors.
March is an ideal time to break
the winter hibernation and head outdoors.
Both kids and adults gain many benefits from outdoor play, say physicians and psychologists. The obvious advantage is the physical activity that’s essential for a healthy lifestyle. But there’s more to it than just burning calories for adults who tend to spend too little time engaging in fun, rejuvenating activities.
Play is vital to adults’ wellbeing, says Shilagh Mirgain, a health and sport psychologist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. It helps relieve stress, boosts creativity, improves mood and keeps adult minds sharp. It also improves relationships with others.
“In play we find the freedom to color outside the lines of our life,” said Mirgain. “There is a learning that comes from this unstructured time. It allows us to tap into our imagination, try different things and not be afraid to fail along the way.”
Adults should schedule play dates for themselves.
Spontaneous opportunities to play can be hard to come by. Adults should schedule play dates for themselves just as they may do for their kids.
“Set the intention to add regular play time back into your calendar. Clear your schedule for a few hours. Turn off electronics, and try something fun you haven’t done since you were a kid,” suggests Mirgain.
To get into the habit, circle the first Saturday of every month on your calendar. It’s designated as National Play Outside Day.
“This includes kids, parents, adults, families and grandparents,” says the information at playoutsideday.org. “There are no scheduled events or activities, just go outside and do something fun with your friends and family.”
Georgia offers an abundance of local parks that are ideal places to play. Among them are 13 systems that have earned accreditation by the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies and the National Recreation and Park Association. Fewer than 200 agencies in the country can claim this elite status.
Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation is the newest accredited system in the state. The county’s nearly 1 million residents have access to a broad menu of outdoor recreational opportunities within the award-winning park system. Among this local park system’s offerings:
- 51 sites, including parks and green spaces
- Nearly 11,000 acres of parkland
- 77 playgrounds
- 142 miles of walking/hiking trails
“Our parks bring residents and visitors from all walks of life together to get active, explore nature, celebrate the arts, create memories and connect with their neighbors,” said Nicole Hendrickson, chairwoman of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners.
Gwinnett County’s offerings mirror outdoor opportunities throughout the state in local and state parks. Runners can lace up their shoes and choose from among several trails at Dacula’s Little Mulberry Park. Hikers can trek along a scenic 3.4-mile trail at 700-acre Tribble Park outside Grayson.
Disc golfers can play a round at Alexander Park’s pristine 18-hole course in Lawrenceville. For the younger crowd, Suwanee’s Peachtree Ridge Park offers a large playground, including a handicap-accessible play area for children with special needs.
For those getting in on the pickleball craze, Gwinnett Parks offers first-come, first-serve outdoor courts at Bay Creek Park in Loganville and E.E. Robinson Park in Sugar Hill.
PLAY AT THE PARK
Ready to hit a park near you? To make the most of your March play date, here are some ideas compiled by Walton Gas:
- Fly a kite. March is a good month to catch a breeze. Local parks often provide the wide, open space you need for this activity. Find kite-flying tips at kite.org. For the best places to fly a kite in the metro Atlanta area, check out recommendations from atlantaparent.com.
- Hunt for treasure. Though it’s not the sensation it once was, going on a Georgia treasure hunt via geocaching is still a great way to liven up a hike or explore new places. Georgia was one of the earliest states to embrace geocaching, and it is filled with memorable caches, including some of the very oldest in the world, according to the Georgia Geocachers Association. To get in on the fun, use a mobile phone app to receive clues leading to hidden treasures, called geocaches, hidden in local and state parks. For instance, Peachtree City boasts having over 300 caches hidden along its 90-mile network of multi-use paths. Georgia State Parks has hidden nearly 50 caches in parks and introduced a new statewide geocache challenge in 2021.
- Play pickleball. Besides the traditional tennis courts, more local parks are providing places to play pickleball — providing opportunities for people to explore a different sport while getting fresh air and exercise. Pickleball is now the fastest-growing sport in Georgia, and for the last 15 years, the fastest growing sport in America, according to the Athens Area Pickleball Association. Many local park systems now offer dedicated outdoor pickleball courts. For instance, Southeast Clarke Park in Athens has six exclusive pickleball courts for outdoor daytime play available first-come, first-serve.
- Take a hike. Georgia is filled with scenic hiking trails where you can stretch your legs and let the kids burn off some energy. Put on your walking shoes and head for a paved or unpaved trail found at hundreds of local parks throughout the state. Georgia State Parks boast more than 600 miles of trails that provide opportunities for adventure. If your park allows animals, bring the dogs so they can get exercise and enjoy the outdoors as well.
March 30 is National Take a Walk in a Park Day. It’s a great excuse to explore the local trails while relaxing and rejuvenating. Whether you take a walk, discover a new playground or hunt for geocache treasure, go outside and play!