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Let me start by making a very low-risk assumption that if you’re reading this, you do not need any more convincing that outdoor recreation is good for every single part of your body. It’s good for the 4 H’s of 4-H: Head, Heart, Hands, and Health.

Through dozens of methods, 4-H doesn’t just preach life skill development, but it operates through an experiential “learn-by-doing” philosophy. Under threat to Health, the brakes have been applied to our normal activities right at the juncture of winter fading and the nicer weather of spring arriving. Okay, we’re all team players and understand the necessity of social-distancing and shelter-in-place protocols; but even young thumbs get tired operating phones and electronic devises eventually aren’t enough. All of us, especially youth, inherently desire to be outdoors at some point and some level.      

Ronald Hershow is an associate professor in the School of Public Health at University of Illinois Chicago. Hershow agrees and recently wrote there is no better place to stay healthy than to be active and outdoors. “We have to change our sensibilities and our ways of approaching life for the next few weeks and months,” says Hershow, by balancing the benefits of outdoor activities with the physical risks involved. Yes I said it; risk management. Not zero risk, but risk minimizing.     

So the message here is simple, but very important. Youth need to be outside and they need to play. But now more than ever, smart decisions on the risk levels of our outdoor activities are key because we’re focusing on a bigger issue instead of just ourselves. At this time, we need hospital beds vacant in case we need them for COVID-19 patients and not for our kids (or ourselves) when we got too risky with our outdoor pursuits. The warmer spring temperatures will pull us outside to be active – and we should be, but be smart about it.

Take your kids outside anytime you can and let them run and play, bike and fish, kick a soccer ball, and yell out loud. But as parents we have to make sure the bike is safe, the helmet is worn, and Johnny isn’t building ramps to jump his bike across the ditch (like I used to do in my youth).   

Everyone go outside. Enjoy the spring weather and the health benefits it offers. Just manage your risk as now is not the time for reckless behavior.  After this is over, you’ll look back and know it was smart to trust your Head, your Heart, your Hands, and your Health to the 4-H way.