Everyone knows that walking is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to exercise and stay healthy. The benefits are incalculable when we take time to put on our walking shoes and step out. Walking is good for cardiovascular health, with experts suggesting that walking at least 4 hours a week will reduce the risk of stroke or heart disease.
Walking is an excellent way to lose weight…and keep the weight off. Researchers in Japan found that participants in a study who walked 10,000 steps a day for 12 weeks significantly lowered their blood pressure levels while increasing their stamina.
Other studies have found that people who gave up a sedentary lifestyle and walked regularly were able to lower LDL cholesterol, reduce the risk of developing diabetes, strengthen their bones and immune cells, build muscle strength, lower stress levels, enjoy better sleep, improve emotional health, and increase their productivity. But walking with young family members adds another dimension: an opportunity to bond, to share ideas and experiences, and to discover nature together.
In 2007 Anne Ferguson, a specialist in chronic disease prevention from Montpelier, Vermont, was trying to find a way to get families outside and moving. She had the idea to separate pages out of children’s books and post them along a local nature trail. The idea eventually caught on in her community and then she started loaning out books through Montpelier’s Kellogg-Hubbard Library. Since then, Storybook trails have been installed in parks, on library campuses, and along nature trails in all 50 states and 12 countries.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources recognized those benefits and created their own Storybook Trails Program in 2019 to promote the importance of literacy, a healthy lifestyle, and connecting with nature.
Each trail is about a half-mile long with 15-20 child-height panels featuring pages of a children’s book and an activity to accompany the text on the page.
There are currently Storybook Trails in many Ohio State Parks and library districts with grants available to develop trails in communities and parks throughout the state. The Cleveland area alone has 11 free Storybook Trails (11 Free Storybook Trails – Cleveland With Kids clewithkids.com).
Last year, the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County partnered with the City of Steubenville to develop the Library StoryWalk in the city’s historic Beatty Park. The timing was perfect as families were eager to leave their Covid-19 cocoons and get outside to explore this unique inner-city nature preserve.
It was so well received that they were able to get a grant to create permanent signage installed along the trail that could withstand Ohio Valley weather and allow for changing stories each season. At the end of the trail is a “mailbox” for participants to leave a message or pick up information about the library.
So, this fall get some walking shoes for yourself, your kids or grandkids, and visit one of the many Story Trails in Ohio. And you all may live happily ever after.
Storybook Trails in Steubenville