Jewel Cave National Monument

Jewel Cave National Monument

Park Prescription Program Encourages People to Get Outdoors

March 21, 2013, 8:37 am

By Heather Crowley

Spending all day staring at a screen is a reality that most individuals face working in the modern world. Our digital devices all fight for our attention with their beeping and blinking at all hours. Computers, televisions, tablets and cell phones are commonplace essentials. This increased amount of time engaged in digital elements greatly reduces the hours in a day left for experiences out in nature.

America also faces an epidemic of a population that is growing—at the waist. According to the Center for Disease Control, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Exercising on a regular basis can help lower cholesterol glucose and blood pressure. It also helps to strengthen muscles, joints and bones while reducing the risk of heart disease.

Spending time in the outdoors not only helps to get your body in top physical condition, but is it also effective in sharpening the minds of youth. Studies show that individuals who had easy access to green space generally had less stress in their lives, along with a lower body mass.

The Park Prescription Program has is a program that tells those with ailments to a walk in nature as a solution to medical and weight problems rather than pills. Maybe running or biking isn’t quite your thing. That’s OK! Walking is a great form of exercise that won’t even feel like exercise. Soak in the scenery and marvel at the wildlife around you.

Instead of writing scripts for a blood pressure medication, doctors are prescribing a jaunt in the park to promote a more healthy, active and relaxing lifestyle. Not to mention that taking a walk in your local park is much cheaper than paying for high-cost prescription medication. Find a healthier you while out enjoying the wonders of the outdoors.

This is particularly important for children. Children’s stress levels are reduced within minutes of seeing green spaces. Additionally, schools that incorporate environmental education programs score higher on standardized testing in math, reading, writing and listening.

The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy is one organization that has embraced the idea of spending time in the parks as a way to promote health. The Trailhead Project helped install signs at trailheads indicating difficulty and calories burned. Helping people associate hiking and walking as exercise is paramount to getting people outdoors.

At Jewel Cave National Monument, the National Park Service identifies trails and recreational activities for patients to fulfill their prescriptions depending on what level of activity they need. The patients can act as guides themselves through Volunteers in Parks (VIPs) Patients not only get the exercise and stress relief they need, but also help make the park a better place!

To find a park near you and get outside and exercising, go to OhRanger.com and enter you town and zip code. Don’t forget you can find parks near you and all their information on the go with the Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder mobile app.  You never know what you’ll spot or see while enjoying nature. The truth is, it’s better than the four white walls of the gym and just as healthy!

Photo courtesy of NPS