By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
The official first day of summer is June 20, which means it’s time to take it outdoors for swimming, bicycling, running and more.
With school being out, it’s the perfect season for families to get outside for some vitamin D. Sunlight allows the body to naturally produce vitamin D which is necessary for overall health. Not only does it aid in strong bones but it also helps your muscles, heart, lungs and brain function properly.
“Recent research is now showing that vitamin D may be important in preventing and treating a number of serious long term health problems,” states the Vitamin D Council website at www.vitamindcouncil.org.
A vitamin D deficiency can lead to severe conditions in both children and adults such as soft and brittle bones. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to cancer, asthma, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and more.
“Humans spend less time in the sun today than at any point in human history which is why more than 1 billion people worldwide are vitamin D deficient,” stated the Sunshine Vitamin Alliance.
Local parks are great way to get natural sunlight while also getting in some physical activity. Ridley Creek State Park includes over 2,000 acres of Delaware County woodlands and meadow. It’s a great open space area that also has trails. There are 13 miles of trails that can be used for hiking through various habitats. A 5-mile paved multi-use trail can be used for bicycling and jogging.
The Schuylkill River Heritage Area is a network of trails that connect parks, gardens and neighborhoods throughout the area. It provides ample opportunities to be active outside. Hiking and walking can be done on the Appalachian Trail which passes through the area between Berks and Schuylkill Counties. The Horseshoe Trail begins at Valley Forge National Historic Park and ends in Lebanon County. The Horseshoe Trail has a beautiful back country that makes it popular with horseback riders as well. The Schuylkill River Trail currently has about 60 miles of finished trail and the completed projected length is 130 miles.
“The trail is just a really great place for people to get out,” said Laura Catalano, Schuylkill River Heritage Area communications director.
She said the paved section of the trail in Pottstown is especially great for families riding on bikes or walking. Along the trail in Pottstown at Riverfront Park, there’s a 1-mile loop called the River Walk. The loop has interpretive signs about recreational activities which Catalano said people can use as an educational opportunity while exercising.
“It’s easy and yet it’s refreshing. You’re by the water and you’re out in nature,” she said.
Like the trail, the Schuylkill River can also be used for outdoor recreational activities. This week, people from throughout the area participated in the 18th annual Schuylkill River Sojourn. The guided canoe and kayak tour started Saturday and ends today. People paddled their way from Schuylkill Haven to Philadelphia. Participants had the option to paddle the whole sojourn or pick a few of the days. Catalano said 205 people participated all together and 79 people did the full trip. She kayaked for two days of the sojourn. On the first day, paddlers travelled from Schuylkill Haven to Port Clinton, which Catalano said was a narrow and shallow part of the river.
“It was a new experience for me. We had to go around a lot of winding turns,” she said.
Catalano took the turns in stride because the benefit was being out in nature on the water. She said the river was beautiful and all you see is trees and no buildings.
The outfitter for the sojourn was Doug Chapman, the founder of Take it Outdoors Adventures. Throughout the year, Chapman organizes several group outdoor activities. Starting this weekend, Chapman will be offering boating trips from Riverfront Park in Pottstown. People will have the option to use their own boat or rent one. Once at the park, participants will be shuttled to Parker Ford where they will then kayak or canoe back to Riverfront Park. Chapman said people can also decide to bike on the trail to Parker Ford then kayak or canoe back. Their bikes will be shuttled to the start location in Pottstown. The boating shuttle service is also available from Tow Path Park in East Coventry and from Ganshahawny Park in Douglass Township. Chapman said all experience levels can participate and that beginners are more than welcome to join. For more information about the boating shuttle service, visit the websitewww.takeitoutdoorsadventures.com.
In addition to paddling trips, Chapman also organizes group backpacking and rock climbing activities in the summer. He often uses the Birdsboro Climbing Quarry. The area has 150 routes ranging in difficulty. Chapman said it’s so much easier to be active outdoors in the summer. He said you don’t have to worry about a lot of gear as you do in the winter.
“You don’t have to carry as much stuff — just have to remember to stay hydrated,” Chapman said.
Being on the water is a lot of fun but so is actually being in it. One of the most obvious ways people can get outdoors in the summer and cool off at the same time is to get wet. Swimming is the fourth most popular sports activity in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Not only is it fun but it’s also a good option for aerobic physical activity.
“Just two and a half hours per week of aerobic physical activity, such as swimming, bicycling, or running, can decrease the risk of chronic illnesses. This can also lead to improved health for people with diabetes and heart disease. Swimmers have about half the risk of death compared with inactive people,” states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
The website also states that people enjoy exercising with water activities more than land activities. So summer is the perfect time to get active at the pool, in the sprinklers or at a spray park. Whether it’s walking on the trail, kayaking in the river, or swimming in the pool, summer is the time to get some fresh air outdoors.