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Nature on prescription now available in Canada

6 min read

Better Society
Source: Unsplash/Myles Tan

More than 1,000 health care providers in British Columbia can now prescribe nature to their patients, with a free Parks Canada Discovery Pass.

Canadians can now Connect to Better Health Through Nature

PaRx is an initiative of the BC Parks Foundation, driven by health-care professionals who want to improve their patients’ health by connecting them to nature. Featuring practical resources like quick tips and patient handouts, its goal is to make prescribing time in nature simple, fun and effective.

Each prescriber who registers with PaRx will receive a nature prescription file customised with a unique provider code, and instructions for how to prescribe and log nature prescriptions.

Parks Prescriptions began as a grassroots movement in the United States over a decade ago, and have now spread to countries around the world. We are proud to be Canada’s first national, evidence-based nature prescription program. 

Source: ParkPrescriptions.ca

And it's no surprise—research shows that kids and adults who spend more time in nature are happier and healthier. PaRx is breaking ground as Canada's first national, evidence-based nature prescription program.
A prescription worth filling: nature prescriptions were named one of the top 8 global wellness trends in 2019. And it’s no surprise—research shows that kids and adults who spend more time in nature are happier and healthier. PaRx is breaking ground as Canada’s first national, evidence-based nature prescription program. Source: Unsplash/Myles Tan

Patients can receive a nature prescription from any health care provider

A new program from the BC Parks Foundation will help treat medical issues by giving patients a prescription to nature. The PaRx initiative is Canada’s first nature prescription program operating in British Columbia (B.C.), Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Health care professionals registered with PaRx can prescribe nature to their patients, who would then be eligible to receive a free annual Parks Canada Discovery Pass.

The program launched officially in 2020, taking inspiration from similar programs in the U.S. Since then, PaRx won the Joule Innovation Prize from the Canadian Medical Association and was featured by the United Nations Health Organization’s COP26 report.

General practitioners have prescribed nature to help treat ADHD, anxiety and depression. 

Research has also shown nature can have benefits in cancer treatment, cardiovascular health, and respiratory health. Studies have shown that patients are more likely to follow a physician’s advice to go out in nature if the advice is given in the form of a written prescription. PaRx recommends prescriptions of at least two hours a week with intervals that are at least 20 minutes in length.

PaRx is ideal for individuals living near national parks who may have financial barriers to accessing nature.

People can receive a nature prescription from any health care provider. However, providers must be registered with PaRx for their patients to receive the free Discovery Pass.

Source: TheGoldenStar.net

Research shows that people who spend at least 2 hours per week in nature report significantly better health and wellbeing. If you want to maximise the stress-busting effects of nature, one study showed that the most efficient drop in cortisol happens between the 20-to-30-minute mark.
Aim to spend at least 2 hours a week in nature, 20+ minutes at a time. Research shows that people who spend at least 2 hours per week in nature report significantly better health and wellbeing. If you want to maximise the stress-busting effects of nature, one study showed that the most efficient drop in cortisol happens between the 20-to-30-minute mark. Source: Unsplash/Ket Monnyreak

2 hours a week is all it takes.

Making nature time an essential part of your lifestyle is one of the best choices you can make for your health. Backed by hundreds of scientific studies over several decades, increasing your green time can have a wide range of positive effects, from a healthier heart and immune system and reduced stress in adults, to better eyesight and brain power in kids.

Research shows that the health benefits of nature start to add up when you feel like you’ve had a meaningful nature experience, whether it’s sitting on a park bench or hiking up a mountain peak.

Follow these 5 simple tips to make the most of your nature prescription:

  1. Aim to spend at least 2 hours a week in nature, 20+ minutes at a time. Research shows that people who spend at least 2 hours per week in nature report significantly better health and wellbeing. If you want to maximise the stress-busting effects of nature, one study showed that the most efficient drop in cortisol happens between the 20-to-30-minute mark.
  2. Make easy green tweaks to your routine. Book a lunchtime walk in the park with a coworker. Do your next cardio workout on a trail instead of at the gym. Choose an active commute to work or school along a greenway—and take a break along the way. Plan a weekend getaway around an outdoor experience. There are so many ways to add more nature to your life without adding extra hours and effort.
  3. Write nature into your schedule. Schedule and prioritise green time like you would a doctor’s appointment or a dinner date. That means entering it in your day planner. Science tells us that when we write something down it’s more likely to happen.
  4. Phone a friend (or family member). Sometimes we need a little extra help to establish a good habit. Getting your loved ones involved increases the chances that you’ll meet your nature goals.
  5. Respect nature—and yourself. Dress for the weather. Stay on the trail and avoid risky detours. Always pack out what you pack in and don’t litter. Treating nature with respect keeps parks safe and accessible for everyone.

Learn more about the specific health benefits of nature here.

Source: ParkPrescriptions.ca 

from a healthier heart and immune system and reduced stress in adults, to better eyesight and brain power in kids.
Backed by hundreds of scientific studies over several decades, increasing your green time can have a wide range of positive effects; from a healthier heart and immune system and reduced stress in adults, to better eyesight and brain power in kids. Source: Unsplash/Laura Marks

Why nature?

FOR ADULTS:

  • 90% of us say we are happier when we’re outside, and stress hormone levels drop significantly after just 15 minutes of sitting in a forest.
  • Spending time in the forest drops inflammation and stress in adults with COPD and reduces the risk of lung infections.
  • Increasing nature time reduces your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Nature therapy improves the psychological well-being of cancer patients and activates tumour killing cells.
  • Spending time in nature boosts memory, creativity and work satisfaction.
  • Seniors who live closer to walkable green spaces live longer.

FOR CHILDREN:

  • Mothers who live in greener areas tend to have babies with healthier birth-weights.
  • A 20 minute walk in a park can improve concentration scores in children with ADHD similar to prescription stimulant medication.
  • Youths who spend time in nature and more resilient and experience less anxiety and depression.
  • Children who live on tree-lined streets have lower rates of asthma.
  • Children with more green space in their neighbourhoods, especially near their schools, have higher test scores and graduation rates.
  • Children who head outside are more likely to hit their physical activity targets and have healthier body weights.

FOR THE PLANET:

  • Children who spend more time in nature are more likely to grow up into environmentalists and adults who are more connected to nature and more likely to protect it.
  • Increasing urban green spaces reduces the urban heat island effect and improved mental and physical health of people living nearby.
  • Green corridors for active transportation reduce carbon emissions and improve the mental and heart health of active commuters.
  • Protecting our forests and wild spaces helps them act as carbon sinks and gives us more places to de-stress.
  • Restoring your coastal ecosystems and wetlands buffers against flooding and future sealevel rise and gives us more spaces for healthy recreation. 

Dress for the weather. Stay on the trail and avoid risky detours. Always pack out what you pack in and don’t litter. Treating nature with respect keeps parks safe and accessible for everyone.
Respect nature—and yourself. Dress for the weather. Stay on the trail and avoid risky detours. Always pack out what you pack in and don’t litter. Treating nature with respect keeps parks safe and accessible for everyone. Source: Unsplash/Rosalind Chang

SCOTTISH DOCTORS IN SHETLAND PRESCRIBE NATURE

Since October 2018, doctors in Shetland, Scotland, have been able to prescribe natureto their patients. It’s thought to be the first program of its kind in the UK, and seeks to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and increase happiness for those with diabetes, a mental illness, stress, heart disease, and more. There is a whole leaflet of nature prescription suggestions that accompanies the program, filled with amusing, charming, sometimes seemingly off-kilter suggestions. Click here to learn more.

Do you need to be told to go outdoors more?
patients are more likely to follow a physician’s advice to go out in nature if the advice is given in the form of a written prescription. Do you need to be told to go outdoors more? Source: Unsplash/Chad Madden
Make an Impact

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