A program of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), STEP OUTSIDE encourages outdoors enthusiasts to invite and mentor newcomers.
It's a challenge that has special meaning in 2006.
Today, more than ever before, more activities afield may be just what the doctor ordered for millions of overweight families, including an alarming percentage of youngsters now suffering from obesity. Fortunately, nature's original family gym and health-food storethe prime hunting grounds of America's great outdoorsare open for business.
As part of its Wingshooting USA program, NSSF recently launched a free online tool to help connect prospective hunters to more than 1,000 easy access, daily fee, bird hunting preserves around the country. To find a preserve in your area, simply visit www.wingshootingusa.org.
Each preserve offers fun days outdoors, good hunting and plenty of health benefits.
"There's no better place to invite health-conscious adults and youths than a bird hunting preserve. The experience could open the door to a wholesome new lifestyle. An average pheasant hunter burns 408 calories per hour. And, as they're exercising, they're providing their family with delicious, low fat, low cholesterol protein," said Melissa Schilling, manager of NSSF's STEP OUTSIDEJust For the Health of It campaign.
The American Heart Association recommends eating pheasant as a healthier alternative to store-bought meats.
Schilling added another reason why preserves are the perfect place to introduce newcomers to the hunting lifestyle. "Lots of birds translate to lots of action. That's so important for first-time hunters, especially youngsters, because if they're not fully engaged in an activity, they can quickly lose interest," she said.
Most hunting preserves also offer instruction, equipment, a safe environment, and a chance to work with knowledgeable guides and enjoy great hunting dogs.
"Plus, with many preserves located close to big cities, a quality hunting experience for most Americans is still only a short drive away," said Schilling.
STEP OUTSIDE surveys show up to 48 million Americans would accept an invitation to go hunting, shooting or fishing, and many could gain significant health benefits from the physical activity.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 54 percent of Americans are overweight, and the percentage of young people who are overweight has more than tripled since 1980. A lack of physical activity is cited as a main problem.
In a 2004 report, U.S. News & World Report found that only 8 percent of elementary schools, 6.4 percent of junior high schools and 5.8 percent of high schools offer daily physical education.
As they search for a place to get outside and enjoy bird-hunting activities, visitors to www.wingshootingusa.org can also enter to win a free hunt at any of nine premier preserves. The hunts together are valued at more than $34,000. Winners in the Wingshooting USA Dream Hunts Sweepstakes will be drawn following a Feb. 28 deadline. See additional rules online.
For more information, visit www.wingshootingusa.org and www.stepoutside.org.