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ATLANTA, October 19, 2011 -- Celebrity Chef and Georgia native Todd English introduced a “Healthy Picnic in the Park” menu recently to support Georgia State Parks and invite citizens to use the Tons of Fun Fitness Challenge for healthy outdoor activity. The event was held at the St. Regis Hotel in Atlanta and attended by program partners and members of the media. Sponsors included Big Green Egg, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Farmer D Organics, FreshPoint, Honest Tea, Springer Mountain Farms and High Country Outfitters.
Being “Georgia Grown” himself, English’s involvement emphasizes the balance that nature brings to outdoor recreation, eating wisely and being fit. Hiking to the top of the Southeast’s tallest waterfall isn’t good just for your soul; it’s good for your health as well. That’s the basic message behind the Georgia State Park system’s new “Tons of Fun Fitness Challenge.” To help combat the growing obesity epidemic, park rangers are reminding citizens that nature holds the key to healthy lifestyles through exercise and nutrition, and that outdoor recreation can be more fun than indoor exercise routines.
The new fitness challenge website – TonsofFun.org -- encourages Georgians to create an online profile to plan activities, track calories burned and document weight lost. It even suggests ways to get the family dog involved. A trainer and nutritionist are available to answer questions online, and soon the Georgia Association of Physicians Assistants will “prescribe” specific outdoor exercises. The website also includes an event calendar with activities such as healthy cooking demonstrations and guided hikes.
According to State Park Director Becky Kelley, “Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. It can literally be a walk in the park. Our Tons of Fun program is designed to engage and educate Georgians about making better choices about health and fitness.”
In an effort to reach as many Georgians as possible, the Tons of Fun initiative includes numerous partnerships with state and local agencies and corporations. With funding from the Department of Education (DOE) and the Arthur Blank Foundation, officials will be producing “instant recess” videos that will bring outdoor activities into classrooms. Tons of Fun has also brought together DOE, The North Face and marathon runner Dean Karnazes’ Karno Kids charity to require school children to submit their own FitnessGram assessments. This video project supports the Student Health and Physical Education (SHAPE) assessment requirement in grades K-12.
The State Parks, which are a division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, are also partnering with the Department of Agriculture on its “Georgia Grown” initiative. The agencies are combining resources to encourage citizens to buy locally and eat healthy meals. Plans are to investigate the feasibility of including farmers markets and community gardens in state parks. Gardening classes, using vegetables grown at General Coffee State Park near Douglas, are already being offered.
Coca-Cola’s Live Positively campaign is funding signage on fitness trails at Georgia State Parks. Trails well suited for children will have signs linking native species with activities, such as encouraging them to hop like a toad or sprint like a deer.
Rockdale County has begun looking into incorporating Tons of Fun into its employee wellness program. Employees can use TonsofFun.org for guidance and Panola Mountain State Park as an “outdoor fitness center.” State park officials hope that other counties and cities will consider similar partnerships with parks in their areas.
Tons of Fun is supported by numerous corporations and agencies, and was first announced this August by Gov. Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal. Significant funding has been provided by the Georgia Department of Public Health, Coca-Cola’s Live Positively initiative and Clear Channel Communications. Future plans include partnering with animal shelters so that hikers can take dogs for walks, and exercise programs for veterans and senior citizens. Officials also hope to work with the Centers for Disease Control to develop tracking models to evaluate the program’s success.
To learn more about Tons of Fun and ways to get fit in Georgia’s great outdoors, visit TonsofFun.org or GeorgiaStateParks.org.
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