Here’s something I bet you never thought you’d hear from a doctor, “I’m writing you a prescription for a trip to the park.” Wait, what? Is this the adult version of that recurring daydream from elementary school where recess is the only class of the day and pizza is the only thing served by the lunch ladies?
Nope, it’s not a dream, Park Prescriptions are a very real thing that began with a pilot program in San Francisco parks in 2012 and has evolved to include over 100 programs across the United States.
Intuitively, most of us know that being outside is good for our health. In fact, we recently returned from a 5 day, 60 mile trip down the Lost Coast and back up through the mountains, and it’s incredible how much lighter in my step I feel returning to work. On a surface level, it doesn’t make sense! Hike 60 miles and feel better afterwards? But…
(enjoying some Pepper Jack Cheese Bites on trail!)
We all have experienced the spectrum of emotions from despair to acceptance, or grief and elation to heartbreak or joy, and felt a sense of calm after reflecting in nature. The outdoors has a rejuvenating effect as well; ever boosted your energy by going for a run? But now, healthcare providers and parks are organizing and working to systemize the prescription of nature based on new research and social awareness of the power of nature for good health.
The Institute at the Golden Gate is a program of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy to “reimagine parks as catalysts for social good, making them more vibrant, relevant, and valuable for all.” (Institute at the Golden Gate) The Institute imagines parks as more than land conservancies and recreation areas but vehicles for social change and human welfare.
The Institute incubates knowledge and innovation and was the breeding ground of ParkRx.org which is an information hub for health practitioners and parks organizations that want to embrace the Park Prescription movement. They have toolkits and platforms to help leaders bring these programs into their own communities. There are more than 400 studies showing the benefits of nature. The science points to improved outcomes when individuals spend time outdoors.
For those of us who spend time regularly outside, I'm sure this doesn't come as a surprise. But perhaps for a loved one working through a hard time or tough thoughts, this concept might be novel and life changing, and having some data behind your “go take a hike, you'll feel better!" suggestion might actually help convince your friend or family member to get some much needed fresh air.
Just a few of the health benefits of nature according to the ParkRx.org:
Nature delivers perspective, awe, and meaning! We can find guidance in the untamed glory of the wilderness. It’s encouraging to see an organized movement promoting improved health by simply being outside and accessing our public lands. It’s so obvious and uncomplicated. That’s a prescription we support wholeheartedly and with wild abandon! What are your thoughts on this movement? Share them with us!
Well yeah, we know it is! Stock up now for your spring trips with our real good, real food, freeze-dried meals that fill you up with nourishing goodness, but don’t fill up your backpack.
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