- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

WATERBURY CENTER, Vt. (AP) - The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation is teaming up with some doctors with a plan to get more people outside and exercising by having the physicians write “prescriptions” that are really free passes to any Vermont State Park.

The “Park Prescription” program, is designed to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent chronic health issues by encouraging exercise at state parks.

“This program is more than just giving passes to people to get into state parks,” said state Parks Director Craig Whipple. “It’s to draw attention to the connection between their physical health and physical activity.”

The program goes beyond the traditional ideas of parks as a place to hike, bike, camp, swim or fish, Whipple said.

“This is an opportunity to draw attention to the connection between individual personal health and getting outdoors, connecting with nature,” he said.

Vermont is always ranked as one of the healthiest states in the nation and Gov. Peter Shumlin, Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen and others say the program, announced Wednesday at the Waterbury Center State Park, will likely improve that ranking.

“It’s a tacit acknowledgement that we need to do everything we can to promote physical outdoor activity in a nation that is more sedentary, as we glue in and plug in technology,” Shumlin said.

The program is a partnership between physicians from 16 offices across the state, the Vermont State Parks, the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and the Department of Health.

“Whether people are able bodied or disabled, please, turn off the TV, turn off the iPhone, turn off the computer … and get out to the state parks. There’s a state park near almost every town in Vermont,” said Dr. David Coddaire, who wrote the ceremonial first park prescription during the Wednesday event for Stephanie Eddy of Milton, her daughter and nephew. “It’s a wonderful resource.”

There will be no need for people to schedule an appointment with a doctor to get one of the free prescriptions. Residents can call the offices of participating doctors and even the receptionists will be able to issue the prescriptions, officials said.

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