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Park Rx Encourages South Dakotans to Exercise Outdoors

March 01, 2021
Posted in Health

BROOKINGS, S.D. - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults get 150 minutes of aerobic activity and children at least an hour of physical activity each week, but Americans often fall short of these guidelines. To get more South Dakotans moving, the South Dakota Department of Health (DOH), SDSU Extension and South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks are once again working together to empower healthcare providers to write their patients a prescription for physical activity in any South Dakota state park.

Launched in 2015, the Park Prescription project aims to connect healthcare professionals with physical activity assessments and prescriptions to open the conversation about physical activity. Healthcare providers can prescribe a free one-day pass to any South Dakota state park to engage in physical activity, making the park the patient's outdoor gym. The one-day pass can also be turned in for a half-off discounted annual pass to encourage further continued physical activity engagement in South Dakota state parks.

"Parks and open spaces are essential resources for physical health and mental wellness. With over 60 state park areas located across the state, they are an accessible option for most South Dakotans," says Emilie Miller, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Visitor Services Coordinator. "We’re proud to partner with DOH and SDSU Extension for the Park Rx program to provide discounted park entrance to those who could benefit most from the health aspects of outdoor recreation.” 

For the month of March, any healthcare provider that signs up as a prescribing provider will receive a free swag bag from South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. Healthcare providers can sign up at the ParkRx website to receive a Park Rx kit.

SDSU Extension Health and Physical Activity Field Specialist Nikki Prosch says there are ample benefits to getting regular physical activity. State parks offer several options: kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, hiking, biking and snowshoeing. According to Prosch, physical activity can improve muscular fitness, help prevent falls, assist with weight management, and improve older adults' cognitive function. Research has also shown physical activity to be an effective behavior to both prevent certain chronic diseases, and in some cases, help treat or monitor others.

“Engaging in physical activity outdoors in parks or green spaces can further enhance the mental and health benefits associated with exercise, including reduced feelings of stress and improved attention,” Prosch says. “Additionally, recent studies are documenting that extra time spent outdoors may help mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The organizations also invite South Dakotans to join them in celebrating National Park Rx Day on April 25. National Park Rx Day helps spread the word of the Park Rx Project and encourages the prescription of exercise in outdoor environments. The celebration is also an opportunity for communities to come together and focus on the positive health effects of outdoor physical activity.

Communities and providers can choose to celebrate in a variety of ways. A few ideas include planning and hosting a community celebration, organizing a group walk or 5K, arranging a free screening at a local park, hosting a community picnic, planning an outdoor group fitness class, hosting a short lunch-and-learn session at a nearby park, etc. For more ideas on how to celebrate, visit ParkRx.org.

If you are interested in learning more, or if you are a healthcare provider who has questions about the program, please contact Nikki Prosch at nikki.prosch@sdstate.edu.