The Importance of Outdoor Rx: Improving Health Outcomes Through Nature-Based Recreation

Friday Field Notes banner image: Featuring engaging stories from practitioners about how partnerships with Cooperative Extension help build Community Capacity to support military service men and women and their families.

Welcome back to Friday Field Notes! Last week, we explored what Outdoor Rx is, why it is important for military families and how it is related to Total Force Fitness (TFF).  This week, we take a deeper dive in to Outdoor Rx, its benefits, and why it is a great initiative.

Improving Public Health Through Prevention

 The United States is facing several public health concerns.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading causes of death in 2017 were:

Heart and Stethoscope

    1. Heart Disease
    2. Cancer
    3. Accidents (unintentional injuries)
    4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases
    5. Stroke
    6. Alzheimer’s disease
    7. Diabetes
    8. Influenza and pneumonia
    9. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis
    10. Intentional self-harm (suicide)

While some of these diseases are unexpected or out of an individual’s control, many of them are not.  Furthermore, Outdoor Rx cites current challenges of physical and mental health, such as:

    • 90% of the average American life is spent indoors
    • $117 billion spent annually on healthcare costs linked to inactivity
    • image of man with hands on headUS obesity rates have tripled since the 1970’s
    • 3% of Americans are depressed as of 2015 with the highest rate of increase amongst teenagers

Many healthcare professionals are aware of the benefits, such as significant decreased healthcare costs, of preventative services.  However, the CDC reports in The Power of Prevention, that in the United States, the healthcare system is not designed for prevention.  Instead, money is made by discovering cures for diseases.  Using this information and many other sources, Outdoor Rx advocates for and has created an initiative that is focused on prevention of diseases and that is also accessible by using the natural resources that we already have in our communities.

image of feet Stepping onto a scale

Colorado: A Leader in Nature-Based Recreation

 The state of Colorado is a fantastic example of how initiatives like Outdoor Rx have improved health outcomes and benefitted the state’s economy, which you can read more about in the Colorado Case Study.  Though Colorado is known as one of the best states to live in, its obesity rate has tripled since the 1990’s and the state is also in the top 10 states with highest prevalence of mental illnesses and suicide rates.

picture saying welcome to colorful colorado

With 45% of Colorado accounting for land space, nature-based activities have quickly become a prescription for improving physical and mental health.  The state boasts a $28 billion outdoor industry, and in 2017, 229,000 jobs were supported because of it.  It is easy to see why nature-based activities are incredibly beneficial on a population-wide level.  Be sure to also check out the Colorado Nature Rx Research Study, which looks at improved cardiovascular health after exposure to dense greenery.

Additional Resources

 Outdoor Rx boasts many benefits, including reduced stress, improved birth outcomes, and increased social connectedness all in an accessible framework for communities everywhere.  Further benefits are yet to be discovered.   If you are interested in learning more about how nature-based recreation can benefit your community, visit Service Offerings.  We hope that you will follow us on this journey of discovering more about Outdoor Rx.  Next week, we will explore how Outdoor Rx can benefit military families.  Don’t forget to follow Community Capacity Building on Twitter for updates during the series!

 

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