Who we are
The Appalachian Mountain Club's (AMC) Outdoors Rx® program began in Fall 2013 through collaborations with Boston's world-renowned healthcare community to combine the recommendation of a trusted medical provider with AMC's outdoor expertise.
Outdoors Rx serves families living in vulnerable communities and aims to improve the mental and physical well-being of children from infancy to age 13 by helping them get outdoors.
Research shows that outdoor play has physical, mental, and social benefits for children, from decreasing the risk of developing lifestyle diseases such as obesity and heart disease, to doing better in school, improving self-esteem, and feeling more connected to nature.
Outdoors Rx gives healthcare professionals dedicated tools for prescribing outdoor activity, including a prescription for the outdoors and a map showing local green spaces for families to explore. Outdoors Rx takes a unique approach to "filling" this type of outdoor play prescription. The program not only provides an online resource with ideas for nearby outings, but it also eliminates the biggest barriers to getting started - cost and experience - by regularly offering local guided programs which are free.
Since the program's launch in 2013, grant funding for Outdoors Rx has been generously provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Boston Medical Center, Cabot Family Charitable Trust, Fresh Sound Foundation, Highland Street Foundation, Lookout Foundation, the George Macomber Family Charitable Gift Fund, Sudbury Foundation, and Vela Foundation.
Through a prescription from a healthcare provider, Outdoors Rx® encourages children and their families to get more physically active outdoors by joining an AMC-guided Outdoors Rx activity in their community.
Families are also encouraged to register on the Outdoors Rx website. The website highlights all of the upcoming Outdoors Rx activities led by AMC staff and volunteers, along with planning resources and how-to and where-to advice on getting outdoors locally. Families can also track how many minutes their child spent getting active each day to earn rewards for fun outdoor gear and trips, such as water bottles or an overnight at AMC's Ponkapoag Camp at the Blue Hills Reservation in Randolph, MA.
Outdoors Rx offers short, easy outdoor activities for the whole family. Activities take place year-round, are open to the public, and typically last 1-2 hours. Outdoors Rx conducts hundreds of programs each year including:
Micro Hikes for Tykes: Short walks at close-to-home parks and green spaces.
Owl Prowls: Learn to identify owls by their calls and then walk with eyes and ears peeled.
Winter Play Parties: Enjoy outdoor snow activities including snowshoeing, building a snowman, and snow painting.
Check out our activity listings to learn more about the exciting programs offered in your community! We hope that you will come and join our amazing Outdoors Rx instructors for a fun adventure in one of your local parks! No previous experience, special clothing, or equipment is necessary.
Outdoors Rx services include
Fun and convenient family programs for children from infancy to age 13
Free, public programs year-round
Easy pathways to outdoor exploration
Prize rewards for kids for being active
Leadership training and support for volunteers
Custom family programs for school and family groups in Outdoors Rx communities
Learn more about outdoor RX communities near you
AMC launched Outdoors Rx® with Mass General Hospital for Children to serve the communities of Framingham, Waltham, Revere, and Chelsea, Massachusetts. In 2014, the Outdoors Rx expanded through a partnership with Boston Medical Center to serve the communities of Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan within the City of Boston.
Depending on the community, program brochures highlighting local parks and ideas for on-your-own activities are available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why get outdoors?
It's fun! Spending time outside is good for your body, your attitude, and your family!
What does the research say?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than one in three children in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Minority and low-income children are disproportionately affected: 45% of overweight/obese children live below the federal poverty line. Current research indicates that youth who spend time outdoors are healthier, happier, and more creative, yet many under the age of six spend less than 30 minutes a day outside. This is due to many factors, including reductions in physical education programs and recess, and perceived and real concerns among caregivers about safety in public parks and playgrounds. Low-income youth face additional barriers such as a lack of access to physical activity resources, and crime, traffic, trash, and disrepair at these physical activity sites (Estabrooks 2003; Duke 2003). Despite evidence that increased physical activity - especially unstructured outdoor play - reduces obesity, chronic disease, and stress, fewer than 14% of health care providers regularly offer counseling on exercise (Amer. Jrnl. of Preventative Medicine).
Do I need a prescription to participate?
No. But if you like the program, please recommend it to your child's pediatrician and other health care professionals.
How can I find out about programs?
Sign up on OutdoorsRx.org. You will receive a weekly email with links to upcoming programs near you.
Who leads programs?
Programs are led by trained AMC staff and volunteers.
Is this a drop-off program?
Outdoors Rx® is for the whole family. Children must attend with a parent or legal guardian. If a friend or caregiver is bringing your child, please send a waiver signed by the child's parent or legal guardian. We also offer a copy of the waiver in Spanish.
Can we bring our dog?
We ask that participants not bring dogs due to allergies.
How will we find the leader at the program?
Each program includes an address or directions to the meet up location. If you have any questions, contact the leader. Plan to arrive on time. If you arrive early, leaders will help keep your kids occupied with fun activities.
What should we wear and bring?
Dress for the weather and wear closed-toed shoes, even in summer. Water and snacks are recommended year-round. Depending on weather, bring or wear extra layers, a rain jacket, hat, gloves, and winter or rain boots. In the summer, please bring sunscreen, bug spray, and a hat.
Do you have gear that we can borrow for winter?
Yes. Depending on weather, some programs will provide snow shoes or traction footwear for ice. Many leaders will also carry extra jackets, hats, and gloves that participants can borrow on a first-come, first-served basis.
How do I find out if a program cancels?
Programs cancel for heavy rain or snow, unsafe travel conditions, or temperatures below 20 degrees. For cancellation information, visit us at https://www.facebook.com/outdoorsrx.
What age(s) are the activities planned for?
Outdoors Rx leads free, fun, convenient family programs for children from infancy to age 13.