Doctors Prescribe New Medicine For Kids: Go Outside

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How much time did you spend outside when you were a kid? (Aleph Studio/Shutterstock)

The dramatic increase in the amount of time that children and teens spend using electronic devices, along with a lot less time spent playing outside, has caused serious health concerns for some kids, including obesity.

Dr. Christina Scirica, a pediatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston, says she has been seeing young patients with symptoms traditionally found in adults including, “Pre-diabetes, diabetes, high blood pressure, vitamin D deficiency, joint pain, arthritis and hip problems.” Needless to say, she finds the development worrisome. 

In an effort to promote better health for children and prevent chronic illness, Massachusetts General Hospital has been collaborating on a pilot program called “Outdoors Rx,” which trains pediatricians to write prescriptions for patients to participate in outdoor activities with the Appalachian Mountain Club.

Dr. Scirica, the medical director of “Outdoors Rx,” explains how the Massachusetts program works and how it could be replicated nationally, and WGBH news reporter, Adam Reilly, shares his experience with one Boston-area family that has benefited from it. 

Tommy Maloney, with his magnifying glass, hikes on the Stonehurst Trails in Waltham, Massachusetts, as part of "Outdoors Rx"

 

Guests:

Adam Reilly and Dr. Christina Scirica

Produced by:

Elizabeth Ross

Editors:

T.J. Raphael

Comments [17]

Marilyn from Montreal, Canada

Wow! I just love all the comments. Happy to read of adults who get it.

Aug. 05 2014 08:02 AM
Jennifer from Napa Valley, CA

I just got back from a 50-mile backpacking trip through Yosemite National Park's backcountry with my 13 year-old son. This was his request for his birthday. His first question when we reached our destination was, "Can we do this again next year?" I am a single parent and was happy to say that I saw a number of other single parents out there with their kids and without exception, every kid, and parent, had a huge smile on their faces and were clearly loving the experience.

Jul. 23 2014 03:47 PM
Sara from Bushwick

I live near a school and a number of weeks ago I was appalled to see the police herding the kids to the subway after school and using the megaphone in the cruiser to tell the kids to go home. It was the middle of the afternoon, why aren't kids allowed to hang out on the block just like anyone else?

Jul. 23 2014 02:34 PM
E. Smythe

So nice that the Renaissance is getting under way. Today's parents need to resume control of their kids and not let Toll Brothers developers or the school board tell them what matters for their children. Mother Nature rules.

I teach horseback riding, and so far, it's batting a thousand for children interested in riding (and there are millions of them) who are also interested in the outdoor life. Give them a chore and they do it, glad to have something useful and fun to do. Children crave simplicity and purpose. Nature does that, naturally.

Jul. 23 2014 01:06 PM
Alison from Doylestown, PA

The outdoors are very important to my husband and myself, we both have very fond memories of growing up and spending a lot of time outdoors. We are trying to get our kids outside as much as possible. A few weekends ago we took our almost 4 year old and one year old camping, we may have been pushing it a bit. I forgot a few key items, camp stove, sleeping bag for my older son and warm nighttime clothes for my 1 year old. My husband and I were totally stressed but my sons were in heaven, my older son wants to know when we are going camping again and my younger son woke up at 5:30 both mornings cawing with the crows at the top of his lungs. Needless to say we are going to wait a year or two before we try a camping adventure again. But we will still keep taking our kids outdoors everyday!

Jul. 23 2014 12:33 PM
Brett Scheen

I posted this to FB about three weeks ago. Pretty well a unanimous thumbs up...

Sitting in my back yard having a beer, I see this beautiful girl, maybe 12, muddy kneed and barefoot, adventuring her way down the river behind my condo with an Australian Shepherd and a giant walking stick. I think this is great, so I express my admiration and we share a laugh about how rarely kids do anything like this anymore, and she continues on down the river. All seems right with the world, my hopes for humanity are high, until she gets to the bend in the river by the road that enters the complex.
There, car after car slow, some expression of concern, confusion, or outright disdain on all of their faces. People are utterly perplexed by the sight of a kid wading down a calf high river. They're stopping, questioning her, so she gets weirded out and heads back up the river.
The whole thing was absurd. Are we really living in a society that insists we raise our children within the confines of our shelters, or beneath the protecting gaze of an adult? It's not like she was rafting away from home with an escaped slave.

In honor of Star, and her struggle against her oppressors, I'd like to claim June 30th as Free Range Child Day. We should all kick our kids out of the house. All children over the age of nine and under the age of 16 should exit the home at sun up with pockets full of snacks, and not return until sundown. Yeah, it may look a little like Warriors or Lord of the Flies, but I made it through alive, as did every other kid I knew. And anyway, if cupcakes get a day, so should kids as independent human beings.

Children! Take Back the Streets!

Jul. 22 2014 06:20 PM
Robin from NYC

Many of the high points of my daughter's childhood were outside. Swim meets. Parks. Collecting National Parks. Camping.

Getting out and moving around was also good for my health. My need for exercise and the fact that she was easier to manage after she was "run" fed off of each other.

Jul. 22 2014 04:13 PM
Michael from San Jose, CA

This caught my ear because my inlaws live near Ferndale, Michigan. In 30 years of visiting, I have seldom seen kids playing outside on a sunny summer afternoon, because it is too hot and humid. The kids are inside, enjoying the airconditioning.

The story is different at pools and beaches.

Jul. 22 2014 03:25 PM
Holly from NC

We are actually in the process of trying to sell our house and buy one that is more "out in the country" so that our kids will have more room to play outside. We currently live in a subdivision and our yard is very small, plus we worry about strangers driving through the neighborhood.

Jul. 22 2014 03:02 PM
Jaynee from Vancouver, WA

I disagree with Roman from PDX. I live in Vancouver, WA and have been doing a nature club with kids between the ages of 1-13 for over 4 years. It is unbelievable the creativity and ingenuity I see the kids exhibit when out in nature. It is anything but boring. I've actually observed that when given the choice between a play ground and "nature" they will spend 5 minutes on the playground and HOURS playing in nature--moving rocks, logs, climbing trees, pretend playing, building fairy houses/forts, observing/collecting rocks, studying plants and bugs, discovering animal tracks, rolling down hills, and so much more. It is truly priceless.

Jul. 22 2014 01:10 PM
Jaynee from Vancouver, WA

I disagree with Roman from PDX. I live in Vancouver, WA and have been doing a nature club with kids between the ages of 1-13 for over 4 years. It is unbelievable the creativity and ingenuity I see the kids exhibit when out in nature. It is anything but boring. I've actually observed that when given the choice between a play ground and "nature" they will spend 5 minutes on the playground and HOURS playing in nature--moving rocks, logs, climbing trees, pretend playing, building fairy houses/forts, observing/collecting rocks, studying plants and bugs, discovering animal tracks, rolling down hills, and so much more. It is truly priceless.

Jul. 22 2014 01:09 PM
Kris from st. Louis mo

I've been riding skateboards for 30 years and the one thing that hasn't changed very much is legal problems that come from skating on both public and private properties.

Jul. 22 2014 12:42 PM
Rhea Wolf from Portland, OR

One South Carolina mother let her 9-year-old play in a park while she worked her shift at McDonald's -- and was arrested for this! She said she didn't want her daughter to have to sit inside at McDonald's on such a beautiful day. What kind of a message does this send to both kids - that it's dangerous to be outside. And what kind of message does this send to mothers - that we'll arrest you before helping you. This story has disturbed me for so many reasons. As a mother, it is difficult to get childcare, but also difficult to try and provide both adequate outside time as well as opportunities for children to develop self-confidence in doing something on their own. Here's a link to the story:
http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/07/15/debra_harrell_arrested_for_letting_her_9_year_old_daughter_go_to_the_park.html

Jul. 22 2014 12:40 PM
Roman from Portland, OR

Once children are introduced to virtual reality and video games, no other activity can compete with it. The nature is too boring, it does not stimulate brain with the same intensity and consistency as a video game.
On the other hand we live in the environment where parents can get in trouble with the law for leaving children alone outdoors and in parks (recent story of a woman who left a 9yo child in the park and was arrested comes into mind). Parents or caregivers are with children at all times these days raising generations that are not able to make decisions for themselves because they are never by themselves. Children are not allowed to make mistakes to learn from - the adults intervene right away. We are in the middle of a very sad experiment with the childhood.

Jul. 22 2014 12:31 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Getting my kids out in nature during the day, makes for a quieter night at home at night.

Jul. 22 2014 11:04 AM
Peg

It's so unfortuate that many kids these days are so immersed in "virtual" reaity that they either fear or even loath the "real" reality of our natural environment. Parents - let your children play ...outdoors ...and get outside and supervise them if you're afraid yourself!

Jul. 22 2014 09:59 AM
Janet from Miami, Fl

In the summer, the mosquitos are the size of a small helicopters and the heat in Miami is horrible. In winter, we love to be outside. A good swing set is the best investment.

Jul. 22 2014 09:51 AM

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