Better Health Is Out There

I will admit that the first time that I heard about this idea, I laughed out loud. Then I stopped, and thought seriously about the factors that contribute to good health, and how most people’s lives pull them away from those factors.

 

Getting outside for some type of experience in the great outdoors intuitively seems like it would be good for your health. This could be a camping trip or simply a stroll down a walking path lined with trees. We would categorize these outdoor experiences in nature as “good for us” without bothering to measure how good it actually is.

But someone has been measuring just how good it is for people to be in nature. Studies have been conducted that show that spending time in nature is a stress buster, improves your memory and creativity, reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease, reduces inflammation, and boosts your immune system. Spending more time in nature actually makes you happier and helps you live longer.

Given all of those benefits, it would seem logical that health professionals who want the best for their patients would recommend more time in nature to their patients. Or, going one step further, health care professionals should be prescribing nature time to their patients.

This new idea of a prescription for nature struck me as funny the first time I heard about it. Why would you need a prescription for this? Nature is available to virtually everyone without a prescription. But, studies also suggest that written prescriptions are better received and more motivating to patients than oral advice. If I know that it would be beneficial for one of my patients to spend more time in nature, it would be great to give them a prescription which details the recommended amount of time, and lays out a plan to get out into nature. This would be better than just telling them to take a hike!

So, I have registered to be a prescriber of nature (Provider MB-MM005). The dose I will be prescribing is standard for everyone: At least 2 hours per week in nature, for a minimum of 20 minutes at a time. Patients who receive these prescriptions can register their prescriptions for a chance to win prizes, including national park passes.

Can there be challenges to getting out into nature? Sure. Allergies, sun protection, bugs, and nasty weather could all play a deterrent to getting out into nature. But, given the health benefits that being in nature provides, all of these can be overcome with appropriate measures, and we shouldn’t let ourselves be deterred.

With the weather starting to beckon us out of doors, let’s accept this invitation and commit ourselves to enjoying the gardens, parks, and trails that are ours to enjoy. Nature has plenty to offer, including many health benefits. If you need a little encouragement to schedule some green space time into your life, stop by and I will write you a prescription.

Learn more about prescribing nature and the mental health benefits of time spent outdoors.

 

Mark Mercure is certified by the Board of Pharmacy Specialties in Geriatric Pharmacy and is the owner/manager of Home Health Care Pharmacy. He specializes in providing comprehensive medication reviews which help patients optimize medication use and avoid drug-related issues.