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Americans Abandoning National Parks
Date:2/9/2008

Researchers find 25% decrease in usage of parks and forests, point to sedentary society,,

FRIDAy, Feb. 8 (HealthDay News) -- National parks were designed to be places where Americans could go to connect with nature, but that healthy ideal may be on the wane.

A new study published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences finds the use of America's parks and forests may be down by as much as 25 percent since 1987.

"Outdoor health activities in nature are good for you in terms of physical, emotional and psychological well-being," said study co-author Oliver Pergams, a research assistant professor in biology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "If they're being replaced by videos and other indoor sedentary activities, then kids aren't getting the good stuff. They're replacing those healthy activities with ones that are quite the opposite in many ways."

His team believes the decline in national park use stems from this "videophilia," which they define as the new human tendency to choose sedentary activities involving electronics over outdoor-based recreation.

"National parks and being outside are symbolic of a healthier lifestyle than where America seems to be going these days," added Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine. "We've been oriented toward environmental control and want everything to be 70 degrees, so we're not communing with nature as much."

While the United States is clearly a sedentary society, said Siegel, he's not sure that there's a direct correlation between the declining use of U.S. national parks and a sedentary lifestyle.

"It's an interesting fact, but it could just mean that our tastes have changed," said Siegel.

The study authors are particularly concerned that the declining use of national parks might lead to a society that's less concerned with
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