Study reveals that nation's national forests can provide public health benefits

Sep 07, 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 some answers.

"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 visitors' outdoor recreation activities with data characterizing the calories expended with each type of ."

Kline, a scientist with the Forest Service's , 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 set by the .

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 two-thirds (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 Control and
  • 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.

Explore further: Measuring phosphorus loss from Midwest crop fields

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Communing with nature less and less

Feb 04, 2008

From backyard gardening to mountain climbing, outdoor activities are on the wane as people around the world spend more leisure time online or in front of the tube, according to findings published this week in the Proceedings of ...

Recommended for you

Measuring phosphorus loss from Midwest crop fields

4 hours ago

Field runoff from farms in the Lake Erie basin is often rich in soluble plant nutrients, including phosphorus. When this nutrient-rich runoff reaches the lake, the phosphorus can support abundant algal blooms ...

FACT CHECK: Both sides in Keystone XL debate bend facts

17 hours ago

Supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run from Canada to the Gulf, say the privately funded, $8 billion project is a critically needed piece of infrastructure that will create thousands of jobs ...

Sao Paulo warns of severe water rationing

19 hours ago

Authorities in Sao Paulo, Brazil's richest state and economic hub, have warned they are considering severe water rationing if the country's worst drought in 80 years continues.

Refineries challenge EPA plan to cut emissions

21 hours ago

A rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency that aims to curb emissions from oil refineries and petrochemical manufacturers is causing tensions to flare between the agency and industry groups. The agency is reviewing ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

GSwift7
not rated yet Sep 07, 2011
lol, this is actually funny.

I was going to post a joke comment on this thread when I was the headline, and it turns out that the text of the article says exactly what I was going to joke about. Surely they are right, buut I that they were going to something less obvious. lol

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.