Stay safe: please read our page about how to walk outdoors safely during COVID-19.

For Health Care Providers

RI Walks can help your health care practice address your patient’s chronic health issues. Humans are built to walk and have a hardwired need to connect with nature. Yet, modern lives are sedentary and disconnected from nature. Many people spend most of their lives indoors and spend hours looking at screens on computers, phones, televisions and games.

The increase in sedentary lifestyles has been accompanied by an epidemic of stress ailments and chronic mental and physical health conditions. As a health care provider, you are on the front lines of this health epidemic with anxiety, depression, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and ADHD.

Have you been searching for a therapeutic intervention to help your patients manage these chronic health conditions? A growing body of research documents that spending time outdoors in a natural setting and walking are effective interventions for helping your patients manage stress, improve cardiovascular health and many other chronic health conditions. RI Walks was developed so that it is easy for health care providers to incorporate walking in natural areas into your health care treatment plans. RI Walks is an intervention that is fun, free and can avoid the negative side effects that accompany some of the other treatment options. And walking has the lowest drop-out rate of any type of exercise intervention.

What is RI Walks?

How to use RI Walks in your Health Care Practice

You and your health care team can advise your patients to take walks and spend time in natural settings as a part of your routine health care delivery. Guide patients to use RI Walks as a resource to help them get started, set a goal, log their walks so that they can track their progress toward a goal and report their walking activity to you if desired.

Four Steps to Take

  1. Sign up your health care practice with RI Walks.
  2. Motivational Interviewing & Goal Setting With Your Patients.
  3. Discuss Barriers and Help Your Patients Make a Concrete Plan.
  4. Record the RI Walks serial number for your patients and their goal in your electronic medical record so that you can follow-up at next appointment.

RI Walks is a website that makes it easy for your patients to:

RI Walks has adventure guides and engaging games to make walking fun, create a challenge and help motivate your patients to get outdoors and walk.

Bottom line: RI Walks can help your patients develop a new habit that is good for their health.

Research studies report that walking in a natural environment provides these benefits:

Mental Health

Physical Health

How much time in nature or walking is needed for health benefits?
There a growing body of research documenting the health benefits of spending time in nature and another body of research documenting health benefits from walking (as exercise).

Time in nature - research studies* show that spending 2 hours a week in nature is a threshold for health benefits even for those living with chronic illness. Studies found that similar health benefits result from spending 15-20 minutes a day that add up to 2 hours a week or 2 hours a week in one block of time.

Time walking - research about the health benefits of walking and exercise recommend walking or exercising 22-30 minutes a day and 2.5 hours a week. Research suggests that health benefits are greatest with daily exercise with evidence that three days of week is a threshold. US Surgeon General recommends walking at least 22 minutes a day to combat chronic disease. American Heart Association guidelines are for daily exercise of over 30 minutes at moderate intensity most days of the week. CDC recommends 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate exercise a week such as brisk walking. American Diabetes Association also recommends 150 minutes a week and daily physical activity or not allowing more than 2 days to elapse between exercise sessions.

Self-care for you as a health care provider - Doctors, nurses, social workers and other health care providers need time outdoors too to help manage your health and prevent burnout. RI Walks will help you to find places to walk and to track your activities. Walking in nature will help you stay on top of your game.

Note about ParkRx - why we do not have "prescriptions" for RI Walks. This project began as RI ParkRx. ParkRx is a national program to encourage health care providers to write prescriptions for their patients to spend time outdoors in nature. ParkRx is affiliated with the National Park Service, the Institute at Golden Gates, the National Recreation and Parks Association and many related initiatives across the nation. We replicated the most successful strategies used by ParkRx programs around the nation.

When we talked with Rhode Islanders from many backgrounds, we found that they dislike the idea that they would get a "prescription" for spending time in nature and taking a walk. We heard that having a "prescription" removed the fun and relaxation from taking walks. Thus, we have dropped ParkRx and are using RI Walks.

White, M.P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J. et al. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep 9, 7730 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3

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Header image and photo button images courtesy of RI Families in Nature.

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