A national fitness campaign called “Go4Life” is aimed at helping people to improve their health and fitness while aging. Union County parks offer many opportunities to get healthy exercise at all levels of ability, during the summer and throughout the year.
“In addition to a wide range of team sports, the many activities available in our County parks include hiking, swimming, boating, biking, horseback riding, fishing, golf, tennis, archery, ice-skating and cross-country skiing,” said Freeholder Chairman Mohamed S. Jalloh, “And if a leisurely stroll is your pleasure, we also have miles of paved pathways and rustic trails to explore.”
Go4Life offers exercise and fitness guidance for older persons age 50 and up. The program is based on research showing that even light exercise can help prevent debilitating conditions associated with aging and a sedentary lifestyle.
“The central message of Go4Life is that it is never too late to enjoy better health through exercise,” said Freeholder Vernell Wright, who is a member of the Union County Advisory Council on Aging. “Even if you have not exercised for years, starting a mild fitness routine can improve your mobility and lead to better health as you grow older.”
The Go4Life program was developed by the National Institute of Aging, a division of the National Institutes of Health, to help reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, stroke, diabetes and other chronic conditions associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
Regular activity has been found to make a positive difference even after many years without exercise, as demonstrated by a study of sedentary seniors in their 70’s and 80’s who achieved more mobility and better health after exercise.
In addition to opportunities for active seniors, Union County parks also provide light, low-impact ways for persons with less mobility to enjoy the out-of-doors.
“Examples of our low-impact offerings include swimming, hiking, fishing, bird watching, nature photography and fitness trails that you can adjust according to your ability,” said Jalloh. “Our special event programming also provides some great opportunities to get out-of-doors, and our paved trails are accessible to wheelchairs and walkers,”
Union County’s summer outdoor events programming includes the free Summer Arts and Family Flix music and movies series, UC-FIT community exercise programs for adults and children, and the new Shakespeare in the Park live theatre series.
Volunteering in Union County parks also provides opportunities for residents of all ages to enjoy outdoor activities. Every year hundreds of volunteers participate in the County’s Adopt-a-Trail and Adopt-a-Trail programs.
In addition, the Freeholder Board supports volunteer programs run by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County, including Master Gardeners and Master Tree Stewards, that involve outdoor activities.
Another fitness resource is the Small Steps to Health and Wealth guide. This free program, developed by Rutgers University nutrition and financial experts, features simple, easy-to-follow guidance designed to foster healthy habits one step at a time.
To find Small Steps to Health and Wealth online, and to get more details about Master Gardeners and Tree Stewards, visit the County website at ucnj.org/rce, or call the Extension office Westfield, 908-654-9854.
To find Union County parks, hiking trails, walking/biking paths and events near you, visit ucnj.org/parks-activities or call the Department of Parks and Recreation, 908-527-4900.
To volunteer with Adopt-a-Park/Adopt-a-Trail visit ucnj.org or call 908-789-3683.
For sample exercises, success stories and other information about Go4Life visit go4life.nia.nih.gov.
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Photo captions (all photos): Union County parks offer fitness opportunities and volunteer opportunities for all ages and levels of ability. Photo credit: County of Union, NJ.