Outdoors Rx: Taking the clean-air cure

Sometimes, it takes a doctor in a white coat to tell us what we know already. That seems to be the theory behind a new pilot program that encourages doctors to “prescribe” outdoor activities to children, in hopes it will prompt them to spend more time hiking in the woods and less inside playing video games.

The program, designed by the Appalachian Mountain Club and Massachusetts General Hospital, enlists New England’s natural beauty in the fight against obesity, asthma, and diabetes. Doctors can now write a prescription directing patients to a new website, OutdoorsRx.org, that matches families with free local outdoor activities. Underway in Waltham and Framingham, the program hopes to fill 5,000 prescriptions over the next 12 months.

Most people understand that exercise is important. But a written reminder from a doctor should hammer home the message that inactivity poses a real health risk. Going for a walk is free — and New England, in autumn, offers one of the world’s best places to follow the doctor’s orders.