Vermont Doctors Prescribe Outdoor Exercise

Following doctor’s orders is a lot of fun this summer, thanks to a statewide push for outdoor exercise. Physicians around the state will prescribe active play in Vermont State Parks as a way to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent chronic health issues.

The Vermont Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation provided Vermont doctors with “prescriptions” that are actually free day passes to state parks. The effort is guided by the principles of Exercise is Medicine (EIM), a global initiative committed to the belief that physical activity plays an integral role in prevention, treatment and management of chronic diseases and should be considered a vital sign of health.

The council and parks department are encouraging Vermont’s health care professionals to talk with patients about the importance of exercise to prevent and treat chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression and mental illness.

Dr. Elisabeth Fontaine writes a prescription for exercise for a patient at Northwestern Medical Center. “These passes are about the pleasure of active play. Go play outside,” Fontaine advises.

Dr. Elisabeth Fontaine writes a prescription for exercise for a patient at Northwestern Medical Center. “These passes are about the pleasure of active play. Go play outside,” Fontaine advises.

“Studies have demonstrated that outdoor exercise is associated with increased energy and revitalization and decreased depression and tension. The sun also helps to create through your skin Vitamin D3, which is important for bone health and metabolic function,” said Dr. Elisabeth Fontaine, a physician at Northwestern Medical Center and member of the council. Fontaine is an avid supporter of Exercise is Medicine and frequently encourages her patients to exercise.

The health benefits of outdoor exercise are well documented. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all adults and children participate regularly in aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities and calls on communities to improve access to outdoor recreational facilities such as parks and green spaces to help lead the nation toward active living.

“The Park Prescription program is a perfect way to highlight the connection between outdoor recreation and personal health,” said Craig Whipple, Director of Vermont State Parks. “Spending time outdoors, connecting with nature and being active all help keep us strong in both body and spirit. And state parks offer the ideal settings for valuable outdoor time!”

Patients must receive parks pass prescriptions from their doctors and should not request them from the Council. Practitioners may request prescriptions from the Council at vermontfitness@vermont.gov. For more details about Vermont state parks, go to www.vtstateparks.com.

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