LANSING, Mich., Feb. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, in partnership with Michigan Recreation and Parks Association (MRPA) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), has launched MI Big Green Gym, a Blues' program focused on helping families and individuals throughout Michigan improve their physical, spiritual and mental health by taking workouts outdoors. The announcement was made this week at the 2013 MRPA Conference and Trade Show in Lansing, Mich. (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130228/DE68514 ) "At Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, we understand the numerous, positive implications physical activity can have on an individual's health and quality of life," said Bridget G. Hurd, director of Community Responsibility for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. "A sedentary lifestyle can cause serious, yet preventable, health problems, from obesity to heart disease. MI Big Green Gym, through the resources available from MRPA and DNR, offers endless opportunities for people to get out, get moving and find a physical activity that is not only enjoyable, but easily accessible and affordable. We're looking forward to supporting this partnership by helping get the word out on the great resources the public has available through MI Big Green Gym." MI Big Green Gym encourages Michigan residents to take advantage of the state's extensive network of quality parks and recreation options. With 101 state parks and hundreds of community recreation agencies that offer a wide variety of physical activities, people can easily pursue fitness interests year-round, from yoga and swimming to hiking and paddling. No matter their fitness level – from beginner to enthusiast – Michigan residents will be able to find the right fit through MPRA member agencies, which offer plenty of affordable activities, classes and programs. Contact your local parks and recreation department for programs near you, or visit www.michigan.gov/stateparks for a complete list of state park activities. "MI Big Green Gym exemplifies the incredible resources already available throughout the state," stated MRPA Chief Operating Officer Ann Conklin. "Through this program and partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, individuals can truly create their own gym and physical activity plan by utilizing their local facilities." "We are excited to work with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Michigan Recreation and Park Association to create a healthier Michigan," added Keith Creagh, director of the Department of Natural Resources. "We want to help people in Michigan get more exercise. Through MI Big Green Gym, we're here to tell the public that fitness is not just good for you but fun. With excellent, affordable parks and recreational resources throughout the state, there are plenty of good reasons to get started." According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, physical activity is a key component to lowering an individual's body weight. Losing 10 percent of your body weight can have significant improvements on both your physical and mental health. A 10 percent weight loss, for those who are overweight, can improve blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes and improve breathing and sleep, among other health benefits. Ron Olson, chief of the DNR's Parks and Recreation Division, added that, with the $11Recreation Passport that provides entry to all Michigan state parks and recreation areas, MI Big Green Gym offers a real value. "The Recreation Passport is the ultimate fitness membership, providing residents with easy access to some of the most scenic 'gyms' in the state," he said. As part of the MI Big Green Gym partnership, three communities in the state will have an additional incentive to get active through the Blues' Community Challenge. The Blues' Community Challenge is a team-based, community competition, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, which encourages individuals of all ages to commit to improving their health by getting active. Beginning at the end of April 2013, Grand Traverse County, Kalamazoo and Marquette will be competing in the inaugural MI Big Green Gym Blues' Community Challenge. Participating community members will form teams and keep track of their cumulative physical activity during an eight-week competition by logging minutes or miles of exercise. Upon completion of the challenge in July 2013, the Blues will award grants to all three participating communities, with the largest grant being awarded to the community with the most active participants, as determined by logged miles. The grants will be used to support public health and wellness investments in the communities.