York Parks and Recreation Department plans outdoor winter activities

By Dan Bancroft
 |  Portsmouth Herald

YORK – Recognizing the importance of getting outside this winter is at the heart of York’s Parks and Recreation Department’s efforts to offer and publicize outdoor activities, according to Robin Cogger, the department’s director.

Cogger noted that with social restrictions remaining in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, everyone should be asking themselves two questions, “How am I getting outside, and how am I moving my body daily?”

“There is a direct connection between mental health, quality of life, and recreation,” said Cogger, whose remarks followed a presentation by two members of York’s mental health provider network.

Getting out of doors in Maine is not just a summertime pastime, noted Cogger. “Colder temperatures and snow do not have to mark the end of outdoor recreation,” said Cogger, who pointed out the physical, mental and emotional benefits of outdoor activities.

     Cogger listed some of the benefits that support mental health and well-being for all ages, including getting away from indoor germs, something that is particularly important this winter, and boosting your metabolism.

“Spending 15-20 minutes outside just two to three times a week, provides sunshine on your hands and face (Vitamin D), and can be beneficial for your mood and your bones,” continued Cogger.

     Cogger also noted that being outdoors in the winter provides an opportunity to do things differently and see things in a different way.

“You will use different muscles, think differently, and move differently, and that is just plain good for you,” said Cogger.

     Some of the activities to be found on the Parks and Recreation website are Nordic Walking, birding, a new partnership with the York Paddle Tennis and Pickleball Club on Mill Lane, and the outdoor nature programs at White Pine Programs.

     These are in addition to some of the better-known winter activities like ice skating, skiing and hiking.

     “Mt. Agamenticus has seen an incredible increase in activity,” said Cogger.

     The Winter Outdoor Recreation resource listing can be found on the website homepage, www.yorkparksandrec.org.

     Sally Manninen, director of Choose to be Healthy Coalition (www.ctbhorg.org), located at York Hospital, and Maggie Norbert, a social worker and therapist working with Sweetser (www.sweetser.org), also presented to the selectmen about concerns facing people who are living through the pandemic, and extolled the benefits of getting outdoors in order to beat coronavirus fatigue.

     Both professionals noted that the pandemic is harmful for everyone, and particularly for anyone who already suffers from mental or emotional health issues.     

     Norbert suggested limiting access to social media and newsfeeds, and “anchor yourself by taking walks and being outdoors.”

“Try to eat well, try to get a good night’s sleep,” urged Norbert, who also suggested that doing something for others can be enormously beneficial.

“One of the things we know for sure (is that) helping others makes us (and them) feel better,” said Norbert.

“It is a good distraction from what you’re going through, and also keeps the positive thoughts moving, and to be quite frank, it is a huge, a huge benefit when we stop and help others, when we start to look at the day and be mindful and grateful, and that’s what (our organizations are) trying to support,” concluded Norbert.

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