The holidays are coming…

With the summer drawing in there is always one big question on the agenda…where do you take the kids? The six weeks holidays are a long time to fill, and most parents would agree that their days out with the little ones should be both fun and educational.

Get outdoors in Brum

Well hunt no more, as The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country hosts a number of weekly activity days down at their EcoPark in Small Heath. The EcoPark is an educational centre for children of all ages, which aims to teach children about their local environment and how to help protect it.

Children can take part in all kinds of exciting activities such as growing trees and vegetables, pond dipping, “minibeast” hunts and nature-themed arts and crafts. Most importantly, these activities will get the kids out in the fresh air, getting their bodies and minds active for the day.

More to offer

There are plenty more environmental activities on offer in the West Midlands. The kids will be spoilt for choice!

The Birmingham Nature Centre (run by Birmingham City Council) is home to a wide range of animals, such as red pandas, lemurs, cranes, otters and meerkats. The centre also has a wide collection of endangered reptiles, such as lizards and snakes.

With so many fascinating and unusual animals on display, those days of driving miles to the nearest zoo may be behind you. Birmingham’s Nature Centre is sure to impress and with entrance fees as little as £3.50 for adults, £1 for children aged 5-15 and under-5s going free, you could certainly afford to visit more than once this summer.

It gets better, as Birmingham is also home to an Outdoor Education Centre (BOEC), which offers exciting activities such as rope courses, zip wire, orienteering and even some water activities.

Not only does the centre offer a great day out for all the family, but it also aims to leave a lasting impression on its visitors about the importance of environmental and conservation work in the local area.

“Green Exercise” is good for the mind

Fresh-air fitness

UK researchers are claiming that just five minutes of exercise in a park or other “green space” can boost a person’s mental health.

According to the latest analysis, combining activities such as walking, jogging or cycling with a natural area can increase your well-being, vastly improving your general mood and self-esteem.

The BBC have released the results of this study from the Environmental Science and Technology journal, who have suggested that the strongest impact of this combination of exercise and “green space” was felt by the younger generations.

Five minutes of walking, cycling, fishing or horse riding (among other activities) gave participants an immense feeling of well-being. Longer periods of exercise in a green environment gave continued positive effects, but the magnitude of these effects was much smaller.

Earth and Water

Further research showed that a greater effect was seen when exercise was conducted in an environment that also contained water – such as a river or lake.

Study leader and researcher at the University of Essex, Jules Pretty, claimed that those who were stressed or suffering with a form of mental illness could potentially benefit most from this “green exercise”.

Paul Framer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, also showed support for this research, saying:

‘It’s important that people experiencing depression can be given the option of a range of treatments, and we would like to see all doctors considering exercise as a treatment where appropriate.’

Well, it’s got to be better than sweating it out on a treadmill in your living room, hasn’t it? What good could possibly come of staring at the reflection of your hot, red face in the TV – knowing that a kitchen full of junk food is just in the next room?

I say out with the in, and in with the out!