Several communities in the United States have developed “Trail Prescription” programs. A Trail Prescription is a document like a prescription written by a health practitioner directing a patient to use the parks and trails of the community a specific number of times at a specified distance. The goals are to encourage more exercise, introduce patients to the public areas available to them, and reduce obesity, especially in young people.
The idea is simplicity itself. Medical professionals use the local resources to encourage positive actions in patients. There is virtually no cost to the community, yet studies have shown the positive physical and psychological effects of outdoor exercise. Developing habits of outdoor activity is especially important among the young.
During the fall semester Michael Gonzales, an intern from the Geography Department, researched the subject for SMGA. His report, available below, details programs from Albuquerque, San Francisco and elsewhere. His work shows that a community effort is needed to get such a program off the ground.
Obviously SMGA is in favor of programs that increase the use of the parks and natural areas. As a volunteer organization, however, SMGA cannot take this on alone. We would need someone to lead this effort. We should identify all the community groups which would have an interest in Trail Prescriptions. We will need an inventory of the available walking areas and their difficulty so physicians can prescribe appropriate walks. We would need help in developing the printed materials (you may see some materials in Michael’s presentation). Finally we would need help training medical personnel in the program.
Anyone interested in participating in this program as a leader or student intern should send an email to [email protected].