Creating an Active, Outdoor Culture

Updated: Oct 15, 2020

12 Hike started in Scioto County, a small and rural part of southern Ohio. Brad wanted to start a group that would encourage people to get outdoors, get active and use the resources in the area to its fullest. Currently, Scioto County is one of the unhealthiest counties in Ohio. Nearly 25% of the population is in poor (or fair) general health. Almost 35% of the population has no leisure time physical activity. Generations of families that did not hike, bike, kayak or exercise have created an unhealthy culture.

The contrast between Scioto County and Larimer County, Colorado where Zach now lives is stark. Almost 90% of the population is involved in leisure time physical activity. 20% of Larimer County is considered obese (versus almost 40% in Scioto). All along the Front Range of Colorado there are bicycle paths, natural areas and exercise centers specifically designed to promote healthy outdoor activity.

So, what has happened to make these two areas so different? What are the physical and cultural differences? Is it possible to turn a sedentary and unhealthy culture around and if so what are the first steps? We believe access to the resources around you and education about those resources is the key.

There has been a large shift beginning to happen in Scioto County. In reality, it is multiple shifts at the same time. A new and young generation can see the issues surrounding the area and are using fun, creative solutions to change the perspective of the area. Multiple Guinness World Records have been broken and the town has worked tirelessly to clean up and instill community pride. This new wave of leadership is also promoting healthy lifestyle choices and educating the public.

In addition, a group called Portsmouth Connex has been using bicycling, hiking and kayaking in the local area to get people outdoors and exercising. They run a monthly calendar that is full of group events. Best of all, it is free for anyone to show up! We were lucky enough to do a podcast with this group (click here to listen). We believe in the work they are doing and are a great resource for the area.

Private businesses have also began to pop up that support and promote getting outdoors. McChesney Ridge is an outdoor recreation venue (their podcast episode can be found here) located in the heart of Scioto County. Owners Reece and Brianna Brown have created a venue with private hiking trails, a multi-acre pond for swimming and kayaking and very soon will have a disc golf course! McChesney Ridge should serve as a model for the rest of the area. Private individuals can create wonderful recreational activities for the citizens in the region.

Every region in the U.S. has its health issues but it doesn't have to stay that way forever. The 12 Hike model is simple: just get up and outside. You don't have to hike a mountain or bike across the country. Take advantage of what's around you. Take your kids to a local park and walk while they play. Visit local state parks and natural areas. Use the Alltrails app and website to find family fun hiking trails. Take small steps to improve your mental and physical health. In the long run you will drastically change your life and hopefully your community.

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