Mass General Is Giving Kids a ‘Prescription’ To Go Outside

A new initiative allows doctors to prescribe outdoor exercise to kids.

Family hiking image via shutterstock

Family hiking image via shutterstock

Massachusetts General Hospital for Children is teaming up with Boston-based conservation and recreation program the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) to launch Outdoors Rx, a program designed to get kids moving on doctors’ orders.

In order to combat diseases that stem from inactive lifestyles, like childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes, and asthma, MGH and AMC will prescribe outdoor activities to kids. Over 60 medical professionals in the two pilot communities of Waltham and Framingham have been trained in the benefits and use of prescribing outdoor activity and are authorized to do so.

Dr. Christina Scirica, an MGH pulmonologist and weight expert, and medical director of Outdoors RX, said in a press release:

“In addition to the widely known benefits of physical activity, research studies have found that exposure to natural environments also improves physical and emotional health. Exposure to the outdoors has been found to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, Vitamin D deficiency, depression and anxiety, and may even improve attention.”

Not only does Outdoors Rx involve doctors prescribing these activities, but the program also has the ability to “fill” prescriptions by organizing events for kids and their families. AMC will provide local outdoor excursions, the program’s website has information about how to create your own outdoor activity group plan, and families and children can earn rewards as incentive for tracking their outdoor progress.

Patients with a prescription can register their families online on the program’s website. From there, they will be provided with information on local AMC outdoor activities in parks like Framingham’s Cushing Memorial Park, Waltham’s Prospect Park, and Bay Circuit Trail and Greenway. Kids can report their progress on the website and rack up points that they can put toward outdoor gear rewards provided by AMC.

John Judge, CEO of the Appalachian Mountain Club said in a press release:

“We see Outdoors Rx as a key component of AMC’s efforts to get 500,000 kids outdoors by the end of 2020. With so many proven benefits to getting active outdoors, AMC can help families take the first step in trying out new activities, finding places to explore, and making these outings fun for kids.”