After a day of family and feasting on Thanksgiving, what will you do the next day?
You could join the ever-escalating Black Friday shopping madness: malls at midnight, crowds stampeding for bargains and plenty of traffic.
Or you could join a healthier tradition and use Black Friday to burn off calories and brighten up your senses with outdoor exercise!
Recreational Equipment Inc., better known as REI, the outdoor equipment and apparel giant, shocked the retail world this year by announcing plans to close stores and shipping centers on the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year. REI instead encourages its employees and customers to spend the day outdoors.
Check out the company’s Black Friday challenge on its website, http://optoutside.rei.com. The site allows users to find trails near them via zip code, then post photos and comments on social media with #optoutside.
Among the New Jersey trails featured on the REI website are the Batona Trail through the Pine Barrens, the Lawrence Hopewell Trail in Mercer County, the Pyramid Mountain Loop in Morris County, the Ridge Trail in the Sourland Mountain Preserve in Somerset County, Smith’s Woods Trails in Burlington County, St. Michael’s Farm Preserve trails in Mercer County, and the Lewis Morris Park trails in Morris County.
Although REI is bucking a huge retail trend by shutting its doors the day after Thanksgiving, it’s definitely hopping aboard the good health bandwagon!
In September, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy launched a new program called “Step It Up” to encourage physical activity and promote walking.
“We know that an average of 22 minutes a day of physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes,” said Murthy. “Increasing people’s physical activity level will significantly reduce their risk of chronic disease and premature death and support positive mental health and healthy aging.”
In his call to action, Dr. Murthy noted that half of all American adults are living with chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. These diseases contribute to disability, premature death, and high health care costs.
Research shows that regular exercise promotes good physical and mental health, prolongs life and prevents disease. Murthy identified walking as an ideal exercise, since almost anybody can do it with minimum expense.
So what will you do this Black Friday? Why not ditch the stress of the shopping malls and mobs, and go for a walk or hike instead? Opt outside — you’ll be happier and healthier for it!
Here in New Jersey, we can be thankful on Thanksgiving weekend for our many great parks and preserves, in addition to those listed on the OptOutside website.
To find a trail near you, check out the New York New Jersey Trail Conference website at www.nynjtc.org, New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s trailhead locator map at www.njconservation.org/recreation.htm, the New Jersey Trails website at www.njtrails.org or the New Jersey Hiking website at www.njhiking.com.
And to learn more about preserving land and natural resources in the Garden State, visit the New Jersey Conservation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michele Byers is executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.