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Parks Prescriptions (PaRx) began as a grassroots movement in the U.S. over a decade ago and has now spread to countries around the world. It’s an initiative of the BC Parks Foundation, driven by health care professionals who want to improve their patients’ health by connecting them to nature. It features practical resources like quick tips and patient handouts, with the goal of making prescribing time in nature simple, fun and effective.

According to the BC Parks Foundation and backed by hundreds of studies over several decades, connecting to nature is one of the best things you can do to improve your health.

“Research tells us that spending time in and around nature is one of the best things we can do for our health,” said Dr. Melissa Lem, the director of PaRx. “Therefore ensuring that community centres – where people already go to connect socially, get active and improve their well-being – have lots of trees and green space nearby is an important public health intervention. And don’t forget to make it a priority to head outside into nature yourself. Studies show that people who are more connected to nature are more likely to protect and champion it, so you might just find yourself more motivated and energized to engage in advocacy when you spend more time in the great outdoors.”

Quick Facts, Courtesy of the BC Parks Foundation

For Adults:

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

For Kids:

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

Additionally, increasing access to nature helps people and the planet in many ways.

  • Increasing urban green spaces reduces the urban heat island effect and improves the 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.

To learn more about Parks Prescriptions and why connecting to nature is one of the best things you can do to improve your health and the health of your community members, visit parkprescriptions.ca.

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Brittany Howard

Brittany is the editor of Community Rec Magazine. Reach her at brittany@peakemedia.com.

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