Healthy & Happy Outdoors, or H2O, is an initiative to connect Iowans with outdoor resources as a way to reduce stress and improve their health. The program is being launched by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in partnership with several state, county and non-profit organizations.
"Our goal is to help Iowans increase mental and physical health through outdoor recreation in Iowa's natural spaces," said Chuck Gipp, DNR Director.
Iowans can go online to www.iowadnr.gov/h2o and find more than 30 types of outdoor activities at more than 1,600 state and county parks and recreation areas.
Participants who create an account and log what activities they have done are automatically entered into prize drawings for outdoor gear.
The DNR and partners hope to have 1,000 participants sign up for H2O in the initial year, and 50,000 participants by 2016. Program partners include the Healthiest State Initiative, Iowa County Conservation Boards, Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Department of Transportation, Iowa Economic Development Authority Iowa Tourism Office and Des Moines Water Works.
The H2O website will continue to grow with tips, healthy links, additional activities and more. Iowans are encouraged to help improve the map by inputting their favorite park into the system. "Our goal is to have every park in the state listed on this map, but we need Iowans' help identifying those great outdoor spaces," Gipp said.
A 2009 report by Resources for the Future, a national environmental policy center, said, "contact with nature positively affects blood pressure, cholesterol, outlook on life, stress reduction and behavioral problems among children." According to the report, researchers have found participation in outdoor recreation impacts two particular problems stress and obesity.
"We want every Iowan to know that spending time outdoors increases physical activity and reduces stress," said Gipp. "H2O provides a tool to make that happen. No matter where they live, Iowans can find places to spend outside that are close to home."
Additionally, Iowa outdoor recreation organizations, retailers and tourism destinations are invited to be prize sponsors, and can donate items like gear, trip packages, or gift cards for the H2O drawing. If an organization wants to donate, they can contact Julie Sparks at (515)281-6159.