Nature at Home

By on March 26, 2020 in Blog

Backyard Activities

During this time of uncertainty that the world is currently facing, getting outdoors is imperative. Spending time in Nature has robust effects on our health – physically, mentally and emotionally.  As the world hunkers down to minimize the spread of COVID-19, we need the anti-stressors of nature, sunlight, and Vitamin D now more than ever.  Even though we are advised to stay home, we can still get outdoors and active for our health.  Given the current guidelines to minimize travel, we encourage you to get creative in ways to enjoy nature around your homes and neighborhoods.  We also encourage you to download the Healthy Parks TN iOS app or use our web app to earn FREE rewards while doing so.

Since many of you are self-quarantining or your full house is quarantining, you might need some ideas of how to get outside! Maybe you (you definitely do) need a break from deep cleaning the house, rearranging the furniture, or watching Friends on Netflix for the 6th time.  Here are some ideas to get you out of the house but still at a safe distance from others:

  • Eat outside:  Move your meals from the dining table to outside.  Use this opportunity to talk about where food comes from!
  • Exercise:
    • Yoga : Child pose, Cobra, Triangle pose, Downward-facing dog, Mountain Pose,  Pigeon pose, Warrior I/II Pose (look up videos if needed)
    • Home Body Weight Workout: push-ups, squats, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, walking lunges, Russian twists, plank, wall sit (look up circuit workouts, HIIT workout, EMOM workouts for examples!!)
    • Stretching: side oblique stretch, cat/cow stretch,  standing hamstring stretch, figure four stretch, butterfly stretch, seated shoulder squeeze, seated neck release
  • Plant something: Use this opportunity to talk about growing your own food, the environment, how it is changing, and what we can do to preserve and protect it!
    • Plant directly in the ground (vegetables, flowers, etc.)
    • Decorate recycled materials (milk jug, coke can, egg cartons, wagon) as a planter… Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
  • Build something:  Let them be creative and use their imagination by providing things like sticks, leaves, dirt, rope, etc.
    • a den, a house, a tee-pee, a fort, a village – Be creative!
  • Play outside:
    • Play I-Spy or red light green light
    • Make an outdoor obstacle course using what you have!
    • Climb a tree, Ride a bike, Go for a walk!
    • Create an outdoor scavenger hunt (find an acorn, pine cone, flower, something alive, etc.)
    • Cloud Art:  Let kids use their imagination to talk about what the clouds look like.  Use this opportunity to talk to them about weather or rain or water.
  • Collect:  Give the kids a jar and have them collect bugs or small plants from outside and have them talk about them with you. (jar, magnifying glass)
    • Make a nature scrapbook/guide (draw the leaf/bug/flower and identify)
  • Outdoor crafts:  There are numerous ways to use items outside as opportunities for crafts
    • Make forest faces: mud/clay, leaves, grass, sticks, acorns, rocks, bark, moss (whatever nature you want to use to make a face)
    • Make a bird feeder (pine cone, bird seed, peanut better, string)

Use this opportunity to be creative and productive while staying at home. Encourage your children to have an imagination outside instead of on the video game. Most importantly, MOVE YOUR BODY OUTSIDE. Sunlight and even a little bit of greenery can help reduce stress, anxiety, blood pressure and improve focus and mood! Take in the sunlight, whether its doing an afternoon workout or helping your child make a bird feeder, make sure to get OUTDOORS… from a safe distance of course!

#HPHPNewYearChallenge 2020

By on February 20, 2020 in Blog



Healthy Parks TN users have definitely started the year off on the right foot! We had over 500 users during the #HPHPNewYearChallenge in January, with over 4,000 check-ins!

This was not an easy challenge to tackle! Creating a new habit can be tough, especially since we had such a variety of weather this January; however, you guys did it! We are VERY proud and impressed with the results! We got to hear many success stories and see awesome pictures in action along the way. Here are just few:

“I love that we have HPHP! I am getting fitter every day and have visited 5 Tennessee state parks so far this year!” -Tammy

“I broke both of the bones in my leg last August, and although I have been doing physical therapy, I have been having trouble getting motivated to do things outside of that. But thanks to the January challenge, I did some sort of physical activity almost every day. Last week, I hiked 5.5 miles!” – Haley

“I really can’t say enough about what a great program it is. Who doesn’t love to get rewards for enjoying nature? During this challenge in January, I kept telling my husband, “We have to go to the park and walk today!” The program provided motivation for us to get outside when otherwise we might have hibernated indoors. And we were happier because we did get out. The program makes a difference for us.” -Melissa

“We were glad to have found out about the program since we enjoy being outdoors and gives us an extra incentive to try new things like kayaking through our state park 😄.” –Joshua

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We hope that this challenge benefited you in more ways than one.  Creating the habit of getting active outdoors is more than just adding a new hobby, it is a behavior change. It is CHOOSING to make the change to better your life and Tennessee. Healthy Parks TN was created to initiate that motivation and use the resources that are available to do so. Thank YOU for delivering the dedication!


Alanna Webster,  Andrea Arevalo, Andrew Turner, Ann Barker, Anne Culpepper, Ashley Wedgworth, Aveana Mueller, Bill Brown, Billy Bateman, Bonnie McCarty, Brandi Combs, Brandon Cannan, Braxton Langford, Brilee Mayo, Cari Barr, Cathy  Wallace, Cheryl Potter, Chris Watts, Craig Hargrow, Diana Fay, Dorothy Thacker, Eric Carlington, Gary Roten, Greg Hunt, Haley Gipson, Hannah Wright, Helen McGee, Hope Browning, Jackie Forsythe, Janie Tipton, Jason Woods, Jenny Biggs, Jerry Tipton, Jessica Brooks, Jill Murphy, Jonathan Foote, Jorhaner Espitia, Joshua Cook, Joshua Sullivan, Juanette Rushing, Juanyale Bennett, Julie Davis, Justin Uphold ,K Schenk, Karen Botting, Karen Kissel, Kate Puckett, Kathi Johnson, Katrina Schenk, Ken Doak, Kim Forsythe, L S, L Schenk, Lena Groves, Lily Rabiei, Lisa Petz, Logan Schenk, Lori Moore, Madan Nagaraju, Marc Wallace, Margaret Hardie, Mark Culpepper, Martin Whiteside, Masami Rhea, Matthew Cooper, Melanie Citty, Melanie Farmer, Melissa Cupp, Melissa McFerrin, Michelle Jordan, Mike Mullins, Nancy Otting, Natnicha Drew, Nena Powell, Nikki Craig, Pam Moffitt, Patti Torbett, Paula Roten, Penney Letbetter,  Rachel Cook, Randy Stolle, Ruth Thompson, Sarah Snell, Scott Greenwood, Shannon Brown, Shawn Waddell,Shelly Ogden, Sherry Bateman, Sirena Mueller, Stephanie Mueller, Stephanie Thomason, Steve Schenk, Susan Underwood, Susannah Finley, Szilvia Russell, Tabitha Burson, Tammy Prater, Teresa Gill, Tiffany Schroeder, Tim Drew, Tina Mullins, Vidya Jayaraj, Wendy Sullivan, Wes Malone, William Sullivan


New Year, Healthy Life

By on December 31, 2019 in Uncategorized


Start Your Year on the Right Foot

Every December it seems that we ask the same question. How the heck did this year go by so fast? This year, however, is hitting us a little bit differently. We are ending a decade, and beginning a new one. Many of us are not just reflecting on what has happened in 2019, but also on how much we have changed in the past 10 years. Maybe you graduated college, switched career paths, started a family, became a grandparent, or changed your hair color seven different times. No matter what has happened this year or in the last decade, 2020 is a good way to reflect on previous goals, make new ones, re-evaluate your hopes and needs, and appreciate what you’ve been able to accomplish thus far. One commonality among every single person, no matter what stage of life you are in is health. Creating a healthy lifestyle is one of the top all time New Year’s Resolutions, which is a GREAT, but how does one actually create a SUSTAINABLE healthy lifestyle?

Be Realistic

Write down what health/fitness goals you would like to accomplish and make a part of your routine. Make sure to put both your short term and long term goals (e.g. ST- be able to run a mile without stopping ; LT- make 85% of my diet come from nutritious foods) . Determine WHY you want to accomplish these goals and periodically remind yourself of the WHY throughout your journey. Be realistic. One of the easiest ways to fall off the horse is to try the “all or nothing” approach (e.g. I will work out every single day). Usually what happens is you set this goal and the moment you take a day off, it turns into two, then three, then you’ll probably think “well I’ve already slacked off this much, what’s one more day, I’ll start over next week”  ̶  which will eventually trail off into quitting all together. Instead of saying “I’m going to work out every day”, make it a priority to exercise at least three times a week (preferably outdoors) and if you want to do more then awesome, but your aim is for at least three times. This makes the goal obtainable and sustainable because you’re likely to not exhaust yourself or get burnt out. This is the same principle as your diet. If you completely cut out all sweets, all carbs, all “junk” food, it will most likely backfire. What are you going to do when you go to a friends’ dinner where they made homemade pizza and brownies?  To create a SUSTAINABLE healthy diet, you should embrace moderation. Don’t think that if you eat that one piece, you’ve completely blown your diet.  Eat the pizza and brownie. The next day, go back to making the majority of your meals nutritious to fuel your body properly, with the occasional pizza, brownie, or bowl of fruity pebbles. Remember, you are creating a LIFESTYLE, which means we need to learn to, yes, be disciplined, but also be flexible, because life does happen and sometimes you need to skip that work out or eat airport food.


The biggest way to follow through with your goals is to stay consistent. Consistency creates habits and habits make up a lifestyle. Making it a PRIORITY to walk three times a week outdoors is a perfect example. Using apps to track your activity, like the Healthy Parks Healthy Person program or FitBit, are great for monitoring your progress and keeping you accountable. Better yet, strive to bring movement into your life every day (which doesn’t mean a full workout). It can be as simple as choosing to take the stairs, standing instead of sitting at your work desk, or dancing. Everyone has different events and schedules going on in their lives, but if being healthy and active is a priority to you (which it should be for every single person), then you will make time in your day, whether it is for 10 minutes or two hours, every little bit counts. Wake up earlier, watch one less show, take time out of your lunch break, or take 30 minutes from your social media time and take a hike. A great way to stay consistent in your diet is to meal plan. Decide what nutritious meals you want to make and only buy those ingredients, which will also most likely save you money. This will create less stress and help you monitor what your consuming! By doing this, you know what your eating, when you’re eating it, and how much of it you will be eating.


The bottom line is that creating a sustainable, healthy lifestyle is not meant to have an end date. It is a constant journey of learning what works for you and what doesn’t. Not everyone can have the same exact diet or exercise routine, but everyone can have one that is specific to them. The only way for you to be able to stay consistent is to ENJOY what you are doing. If you hate eating salads, then maybe finding a way to add spinach to your diet is to blend it up in a smoothie. If you don’t like going to the gym, find a park and start walking or hiking. If you love watching TV shows, start getting up and moving around during the commercial breaks. Your health should be a priority. With obesity rates continuously rising in all of the Unites States, we need to step back and look at how we are treating our own bodies, our children’s bodies, and everyone else around us. You only get one body, so treat it with respect! Fuel your body right and always make sure to add movement into your life. Take advantage of the New Year and New Decade to make you the healthiest version of yourself! Move more, eat colorfully, and get in nature!

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Let’s Talk About Food This Winter Season – HPHP #4

By on December 13, 2019 in Blog

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Let’s Talk About Food

Winter is a time that can bring us many different feelings: the joy of the holidays, the excitement of snow falling, the dismay of staying warm in the cold, the undeniable couple of pounds we tend to gain, and the dread of cold and flu season. Do not fret!  One way to help all of the above is to fuel your body with the right foods for the season! Choosing nutrient dense foods this time of year will make the holidays more exciting, keep you warmer, boost your energy level, and decrease your chances of catching a cold or the flu. Being knowledgeable about the foods you are consuming can make the biggest difference in having a consistently happy, energetic, warm, and healthy winter season. Our bodies are complex and we need all parts to function properly in order to keep us strong and healthy!

Dark Leafy Greens

Talk about a diverse amount of benefits! Spinach, broccoli, kale, cabbage, romaine, brussels sprouts, and collard greens are packed with nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, zinc, fiber, calcium, and antioxidants. They are also very low in calories, sodium, and carbohydrates. I’m sure we’ve all heard the craze about how good kale is for you… Well it really is! Along with nutrients previously mentioned, kale also contains potassium, copper, magnesium, manganese, and protein! Whether you blend it in a smoothie, make a salad, wrap it, bake it, or just eat it raw, make sure to incorporate your greens!!

Fish, Poultry, and Red Meat

Salmon, tuna, and cod are great ways to get in your vitamin D, B-12, healthy fats, and protein. Salmon is also packed with potassium, vitamin B, magnesium, and Omega-3’s. Other oily fish like herring, anchovies, and sardines are excellent sources of your Omega-3’s (as well as walnuts, eggs, chia seeds, and flax seeds).  Poultry is also a good source of protein, vitamin A, vitamin B, selenium, and phosphorous. Consuming chicken broth (not from a can) is GREAT for your metabolism, immune system, intestinal health, joint health, respiratory infections, chronic inflammation, and hydration, so make sure to eat your soups! Red meats are high in iron, vitamin B, zinc, and protein; however, make sure to choose the leaner cuts (e.g. round steaks/roasts, filet mignon, loin chops/roasts) and monitor your portion sizes.

Fruits, Vegetables, and Nuts

I know you all remember your parents forcing you to chew that tart, powdery orange vitamin C tablet. Though vitamin supplements are a good way to get your daily dose in, you should incorporate nutritious foods that can provide more benefits than just one. Red peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, and citrus fruits are great sources of vitamin C. Broccoli and cauliflower also contain great sources of vitamin A, K, and fiber.  Squash (butternut, acorn, delicate, spaghetti) are rich in vitamin A, vitamin K, B-6, folate, potassium, and manganese. Potatoes (especially sweet potatoes) are great sources of vitamin B, Beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium, manganese, iron, and fiber. When lacking in vitamin D, try drinking fortified orange juice or adding mushrooms to your meal. If you’re needing some antioxidants, blueberries and pomegranates (and dark chocolate!) are an excellent choice. Legumes like black beans, white beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and lentils are also a good source of fiber, folate, and protein. Nuts (e.g. almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, peanuts) are good sources of protein, fat, fiber, vitamin E, and magnesium, while staying relatively low on the carb side. One thing to watch out for though is the sodium content and portion size (it can sneak up on you).

The Add-Ins

Don’t underestimate the benefits that spices and herbs bring to the table! Garlic is full of surprises. It has antibacterial and antiviral properties, stimulates white blood cell production (i.e. good for our immune system!) and contains vitamin C, vitamin B, potassium, calcium, and manganese. Try to incorporate spices like turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, ginger, and cardamom this season. Turmeric and ginger help reduce inflammation, alleviate headaches, aid in fighting a cold, and assist in the digestion. Cinnamon, cumin, and cloves also help with digestion, as well as lowering blood sugar, improving blood circulation, and providing antioxidants.


The daily recommendation of water intake for women is 91 ounces and 125 ounces for men. Staying hydrated keeps you warm and boosts your immune system.  This includes consuming hydrating foods and drinking your water! If you have trouble getting in your water, you can try staying hydrated by drinking teas (e.g. green tea, spice tea, cinnamon tea) or flavor add-ins like frozen fruits. Try to set a goal throughout the day to make sure you get your water in! You can also try using a reusable straw and water bottle to increase your water intake! Choosing hydrating foods like oranges, celery, soups, and oatmeal, while limiting the consumption of sugary beverages, sodium, fried food, and processed food will make a big difference as well!

Keeping a consistent, healthy diet will make the biggest difference in these cold months! Most of these foods make easy swaps to make your meals more nutritious, like swapping regular pasta noodles with spaghetti squash, adding spinach to your omelette, or swapping a coke with strawberry infused water! Also, don’t be afraid to use frozen fruits or vegetables; they hold more nutritional value than you might think. Be proactive and fuel your body right with what it needs to stay warm, get active, be cheerful, and not get the flu this winter!

Happy Holidays!

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Dressing for Cold Weather Exercise – HPHP #3

By on November 26, 2019 in Blog


Dressing for Cold Weather Exercise

As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach us, so does colder weather. Put away the short sleeves and shorts and bring out the long sleeves and jackets! Although the changing season makes us want to hibernate inside, lounge on the couch, and watch Netflix or Disney +, we still need to make it a priority to be active! Regular physical activity has shown to boost your immunity, making you less likely to get a cold or flu, which is significant during the cold months! When dressing for cold weather, there are a few things you need to know, especially when exercising outdoors. Whether you are getting your exercise in by raking leaves, shoveling snow, or going on walk or run outdoors, keeping warm should be your top priority! Layers. Layers. Layers.

Layering Up

First, you want to make sure your base layer is a light weight, moisture-wicking material. AVOID COTTON! You don’t want to end up freezing because your cotton shirt absorbed the sweat when you went on your trail run. Synthetic materials like polypropylene, polyester, nylon, and silk are good for keeping you DRY and WARM.

When deciding your mid-layer, you should consider what clothing provides insulation and ventilation. Clothing with ventilation (mesh, zippers, etc.) will help regulate your body temperature and let the base layer breathe, preventing moisture from being trapped in. Materials like fleece, polyester, or wool will help insulate and ventilate to keep you warm.

Your outer later should be a waterproof or wind breaking material, to protect you from the elements. Having pit zippers or ankle zippers are a good idea for ventilation for this layer as well.

You also want to remember to protect your feet, hands, head, and ears. These areas are typically the first to get frostbite if not protected. Wear a beanie or ear warmers to protect your head and ears from the cold and the wind. Gloves and socks are just as important! No one likes not being able to wiggle their fingers or toes, so be prepared!

Every person is different, so you should experiment with what combination of materials work for you. Just remember that when exercising in cold weather, if you have too many layers on, you will probably sweat right through them, so make sure to shed a layer or two before performing the exercise. Your body generates more heat than you think! You can always add the layers back on when needed.

More Tips

  • Check the weather forecast! The temperature can “feel” colder if there is wind chill or moisture.
  • Just because it is cold doesn’t mean you can’t get sunburned, so make sure to wear sunscreen if you plan to be in the snow or in direct light.
  • Wear reflective gear if you are planning on exercising when it is dark. This might mean a reflective jacket or some lights if you are biking.
  • Stay hydrated! Just because you are not constantly sweating like you would be in the summer, doesn’t mean you won’t get dehydrated in the cold months! Dehydration typically goes unnoticed in the winter, but staying hydrated helps boost your immune system, stay warm, and maintain your body weight.

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Why Nature? – HPHP #2

By on November 14, 2019 in Blog


Why Nature?

“There is just something about being outdoors that makes you feel good.”

I think most of us can agree that this is a fair statement. But what makes being in nature so good? Is it because of what’s in the air, the smell, the scenery, the sound? Research has shown that there are multiple scientific factors that contribute to that “feel good” feeling.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” What does this mean? It means that health is multidimensional.

Studies have shown how surrounding oneself in the forest and encompassing all the senses have significant benefits on the body   ̶  physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Specifically, some of these studies in Japan embrace the approach “Shinrin-yoku” (or forest bathing). Comprehensively, the measurements evaluated during the studies were: blood pressure, pulse rate, salivary cortisol levels (stress hormone), heart rate variability related to the sympathetic (fight or flight response) and parasympathetic (controlling homeostasis) nervous activity, hemoglobin concentration, blood-glucose levels, and natural killer cell activity. Some studies also added surveys or questionnaires to determine mood changes. The research differed for participants on physiological responses according to their specific focus by using the following guidelines: walking or sitting, randomized participants, participants with hypertension, participants with non-insulin-dependent diabetes, age, or gender.  Through the varied research, the same results occurred  ̶  all measurements either increased or decreased (beneficially) from walking or sitting in the forest as compared to the control groups that were based in an urban environment (walking on the sidewalk, looking at buildings).

Though there are significant benefits to being surrounded by nature, you don’t have to be in the middle of the forest to experience these benefits! Research has shown that visual stimulation, such as plants in the work place or nature scenes on computer screensavers, increases the state of relaxation, alleviates stress, boosts creativity, and enhances focus. Olfactory (smell) stimulation could be a factor in this since smelling certain essential oils or fresh flora has shown similar results to visual stimulation research.  Inhaling phytoncides (antibacterial and antifungal chemicals emitted by plants) has shown to increase a persons’ natural killer cells, therefore boosting the immune system. Having plants in hospitals or window spaces with exposure to sun/greenery have shown to improve mood, increase recovery time, decrease hospitalization time, and ameliorate the ability to cope with chronic illness in patients. Gardening has shown to relieve stress, reduce severity of depression, reduce the onset and severity of dementia, increase self-esteem and decrease hostility of inmates, and reduce crime in neighborhoods with community gardening.

Research in Finland has suggested that just 5 hours A MONTH can help your overall well-being. If you think about it, a typical 30-day month contains 720 hours. I think ALL of us can spare, at the very least, 5 hours a month (and hopefully many more) outside in nature. It doesn’t have to be running or biking; it can just be sitting and taking in the moment, releasing the stresses of everyday life.  Until recently, humans have evolved in the natural environment for thousands of year, so there is no wonder why we have a predisposition to be surrounded by nature or have a plant sitting on the work desk to “feel better.”

What else do plants provide? Trees filter the air by removing carbon dioxide and air pollutants, while producing oxygen that we need; filter pollutants and chemicals from the water in the soil; prevent flooding; reduce storm water run-off and erosion; help conserve energy by absorbing heat in urban areas, while providing shade, moisture, and wind barriers (which reduces the need for heat/cooling in buildings). There is also the obvious one that nature provides: biodiversity. So, not only does nature help our bodily health, it helps our biosphere’s health! Keeping nature around and incorporating it into our increasingly growing urban settings is imperative to everything and everyone on Earth.

With what Richard Louv coined “nature-deficit disorder” increasing, it is more essential than ever for people of ALL ages to incorporate Vitamin N(ature) in their lives. Whether it’s at a nearby park, green space, window that overlooks greenery, a garden, WHATEVER you must do, get out and smell the roses. Enjoy nature, let it heal you, introduce it to your children, protect it, and find a way to make it a priority in your life. Parks, green spaces, and protected natural areas are here, accessible, and available to expose people to what the natural environment has to offer and to encourage generation on generation to preserve it. If we do our part, nature will do its part.


By on November 1, 2019 in Blog



What is Healthy Parks Healthy Person TN? Why should I use it?

Well…  The ultimate goal for the HPHP program is to get more people active OUTDOORS.  There has been an ample amount of studies proving how nature in itself has many physical, mental, and emotional health benefits: boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, improves mood, increases ability to focus (even those with ADHD), reduces inflammation, increases energy level, improves sleep, and boosts creativity (  Even just looking at a picture of nature for 30 seconds has shown to improve your mood and focus. Combining physical activity with nature, the benefits rise even greater, especially those with with chronic diseases: diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, some cancers, arthritis, and sleep disorders (

But wait there’s more… this program is FREE. By utilizing the green spaces and parks in Tennessee (national, state, county, city), you are able to get out in nature and not have to pay a gym membership. It’s accessible and affordable. It also allows you to see what our beautiful parks have to offer and in turn make you appreciate the natural areas around you.  For every activity you complete, you can “check-in” on the app to earn your points. You can check-in your activity once per hour, but you can only earn 10 points per day. This allows you to see how many activities you accomplish , but since the rewards you can redeem are free, we have the “10 point per day” restriction to keep you motivated every day. This will hopefully encourage you to get out and active in order to eventually make it a habit/lifestyle that you incorporate into your daily routine (and get awesome rewards for rewarding your body). The hope is to make the extrinsic rewards (shirts, water bottles, free meals, cabin stays, and MUCH more) become intrinsic rewards (overall mental, emotional, and physical well being).

You improve your health and fall in love with your favorite parks, in turn becoming new stewards for our parks. It is a WIN, WIN, WIN.

TN Public Health Association Newsletter Article

By on May 10, 2019 in Uncategorized

Rx: Get Out in Nature 

Healthy Parks Healthy Person Tennessee is an initiative of the Tennessee Department of Envrironment and Conservation’s State Parks, with support of the Tennessee Department of Health. This program works with healthcare providers across the state to promote the outdoors as a means of improving the health of Tennesseans.

A component of Healthy Parks Healthy Person Tennessee is the Parks Prescription program. It is a great avenue for nurses, physicians, and other health care professionals to assess physical activity of their patients, counsel on the importance of physical activity, and prescribe outdoor activity as part of the health or treatment plan. The park prescriptions come as a tear-off pad, just like regular prescriptions. As a bonus, patients can use the web-based phone app to log in outdoor experiences and earn rewards at state parks for participating in healthy outdoor activities. Points can be used for a healthy meal at a park restaurant, gift shop items, or a free 2 night stay at a TN State Park cabin!

Why nature and health?

According to the 2017 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, 30 % of Tennessee adults report no leisure time physical activity, and 32% of Tennessee adults are obese. The Tennessee Department of Education Office of Coordinated School Health reports that in 2016, 38% of Tennessee public school children were overweight or obese. Obesity is a risk factor for many chronic conditions, including those among the leading causes of death in Tennessee, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Physical activity is critical to good health and most of us recommend it to our patients as a way to prevent obesity and its complications. One way to address physical activity is to think “outside the clinic” to Tennessee’s parks, greenways, green spaces and playgrounds for a dose of nature. While difficult to evaluate clinically or quantify through rigorous study (there’s no clear dose of nature, for example), there is a growing body of literature suggesting that exposure to nature is beneficial to overall health, with some studies demonstrating improved physical and mental outcomes. An excellent compilation of the literature can  be found in a 2014 review summarizing research, and proceedings from the Natural Environments Initiative meeting convened by the Center for Health and Global Environments at the Harvard School of Public Health.

In a popular 2006 book, Last Child in the Woods, journalist Richard Louv makes the case for children to be out in nature to improve creativity, critical thinking, focus, and sensitivity, as well as improvements in physical skills and strength.

The CDC lists specific evidence-based physical activity recommendations for adults (150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week) and children (60 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per day), so it makes sense for nurses and other medical professionals to suggest that people go outside for that activity, because there may be a lot of other benefits!

How did this develop?

Healthy Parks Healthy Person was started by Henry Horton State Park Manager, Ryan Jenkins, modeled after the nation-wide movement of the National Park Service to encourage people of all ages to enjoy time in nature, and burn some calories!  A big part of the success of Healthy Parks Healthy Person is due to the statewide Advisory Committee grassroots promotion of the initiative. A big thank you to all of our Advisory Committee members!

In Tennessee, many nurses, physicians, community health centers, and health department clinics are using the Parks Rx program. The Tennessee Medical Association (TMA) has passed a resolution encouraging physicians to use the program. The Tennessee Nurses’ Association (TNA) and Tennessee Hospital Association (THA) have written letters of support of the TMA resolution, and TNA will be writing its own resolution. The program is growing and improving with plans for expansion, having more healthcare providers involved and developing a robust app. This is just another we can build a culture of health!

How do I access materials?

Contact Ryan Jenkins for Park Prescription pads, brochures and posters for your office

See Health Parks Healthy Person TN website and sign up for the reward program at:

View a you-tube video of Ryan talking about the program:




References and other Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Physical Activity Recommendations

County Health Rankings and Roadmaps


National Parks Rx Program and Healthy Parks Healthy People US Strategic Action Plan


2014 Paper from the Natural Environments Initiative meeting convened by the Center for Health and Global Environments at the Harvard School of Public Health:






Rewards Offered For Outdoor Exercise

By on May 10, 2019 in Uncategorized

Rewards offered for outdoor exercise


The link between spending time outside and becoming healthier prompted one Tennessee park ranger to think of a new idea to promote health as well as the enjoyment of the state’s parks and natural areas.

Healthy Parks Healthy Person is a new initiative by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to encourage Tennesseans to exercise in exchange for rewards such as free meals and lodging at state parks.

Cummins Falls Park Ranger Ray Cutcher explained that people can download an application onto their phones or computers in which they can log in daily and enter activities as walking, hiking, swimming or running and earn points that can be exchanged for rewards.

“Ryan Jenkins, the park manager at Henry Horton State Park, he developed this,” Cutcher said.

Each activity earns 10 points, and over time, individuals can earn rewards such as a free round of golf, swimming passes, meals, ranger-led hikes, gift shop items, camping passes and cabin rentals. Cookeville Councilman Chuck Womack, a urologist, has been urging cardiologists to participate in writing “prescriptions” for patients to simply go outside and walk. To sign up for Healthy Parks Health Person rewards, visit healthyparkstn. com.

Doctor’s Orders: Take A Walk In The Park

By on May 10, 2019 in Uncategorized


National ParkRx Day is April 29


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Healthy Parks Healthy Person Tennessee, an initiative of Tennessee State Parks with support from the Tennessee Department of Health, works with health care providers to promote the outdoors as a means of improving the health of Tennesseans. All are invited to celebrate National ParkRx Day on Sunday, April 29.


“Our Tennessee State Parks are some of the best in the country,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Turning off electronic devices and going outdoors can greatly improve one’s mental and physical well-being.”


The Parks Prescription program, a component of Healthy Parks Healthy Person Tennessee, is a way for nurses, physicians and other health care professionals to assess physical activity of their patients, counsel patients on the importance of physical activity and prescribe outdoor activity as part of their health or treatment plans. The park prescriptions come as a tear-off pad, just like regular prescriptions, and patients can use the web-based phone application to log outdoor experiences to earn rewards at Tennessee State Parks.


National ParkRx Day is celebrated across the United States to promote the growing movement of prescribing time spent in parks and nature to improve health. National ParkRx Day encourages everyone to start seeing visits to parks and public lands as very important parts of their health. In 2015, the U.S. Surgeon General released a call to action to promote walking and walkable communities. National ParkRx Day builds on this call to action.


Tennesseans are encouraged to:

  • Go to a local park, greenway or Tennessee State Park
  • Work in the yard
  • Take their children to a neighborhood playground
  • Go boating or fishing


For more information about Healthy Parks Healthy Person Tennessee, go to


The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at