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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! Over the next weeks, Military Family Learning Network’s Community Capacity Building team will be exploring Outdoor Rx.  We are excited to share this unique way to improve mental and physical fitness and explore how it can impact military families.  Remember Total Force Fitness? If not, brush up on our previous blog posts because in future Friday Field Notes, we will take a look at how Outdoor Rx is related to the environmental domain of TFF.

People at base of a Mountain

For now, we begin with a general overview of Outdoor Rx to provide a basis for further exploration of the topic by addressing the following 3 questions:

What is Outdoor Rx?

Outdoor Rx is a prescription for individuals to get outside with the mission of improving mental and physical health through nature-based recreation.  Outdoor Rx is more than a philosophy about health and wellness; it is also a network.  Members of the Outdoor Rx Collaborative have the opportunity to exchange tools, resources, evidence-based practices, and events.

So why is Outdoor Rx important? Several public health concerns, such as obesity, suicide, social isolation, and depression, drive up the cost of healthcare in the United States.  Outdoor Rx offers creative solutions to reduce stress levels, increase social connectedness, and improve overall well-being.  The state of Colorado is a great example of how using existing land space to promote wellness can improve public health concerns.  As a preview to the next Friday Field Notes, check out the Outdoor Rx Colorado Case Study.

Child in Nature

How is Outdoor Rx important for military families?

You may wonder what this has to do with military families.  Military families go through many transitions in life including changes of station and multiple deployments.  For military families that have children and adolescents, these transitions can be difficult. Outdoor Rx promotes resilience, social interaction, and improved mental health for military families that can mitigate the negative effects that military life can sometimes have on young ones.  The Cooperative Extension System offers programs, such as 4H and Positive Youth Development to aid in that goal.  Service providers who are knowledgeable about these resources can help military families more easily transition to different communities.

Bikers on wooded biking Trail

How is Outdoor Rx related to Total Force Fitness?

If you remember from our previous series on Total Force Fitness (TFF), the environmental domain mainly focused on negative aspects of the environment and mitigating the effects of heat, cold, radiation, altitude, and more.  Though it is of extreme importance for service members to be able to withstand harsh environments, it is also important to promote enjoyment in nature as well. People do not need to simply need to survive the environment, they can thrive in positive environments too.  Throughout this series, we showcase how Cooperative Extension programs promote positive interactions with the environment.

Additional Resources

To learn more about Outdoor Rx, visit the following sites as a preview to upcoming Friday Field Notes:

North American Association for Environmental Education

Children and Nature Network

Park Rx

Institute at the Golden Gate

Join us next week as we further explore what Outdoor Rx is.  And don’t forget to follow Community Capacity Building on Twitter for updates!