If you enjoy walking in nature, you know about it’s incredibly restorative powers. There was a time when doctors did prescribe nature as a curative. The original European spas were used for that purpose, providing refuge from noise, stress and pollutants found in big cities.
Today, researchers are still studying this fascinating connection between nature and health. A study conducted by Australia’s University of Queensland and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions found that those who visit parks 30 minutes a week are less likely to experience high blood pressure and poor mental health, than those who don’t. Plus, just 30 minutes a week outdoors can also help to reduce the risk of heart disease, stress and depression.
Dr. Robert Zarr, a pediatrician, in Washington, D.C. started the “Ecotherapy” trend when he decided to prescribe park visits for his patients. His prescription pad replaced medication with directions on which park to visit, how long to stay and which days to go. He thinks it’s important to give specific advice rather than the standard, “get outside and exercise.” Zarr is part of a small but growing group of healthcare professionals who are “medicalizing nature”.
It isn’t just the medical field that recognizes the benefits of connecting with nature. City planners know that green spaces within cities are absolutely key to urban happiness and wellbeing. Take advantage of Toronto’s parks, trails and ravines for your own restoration!
3 Ways to Tap into Nature for Health
- Try “green exercise”. It turns out that exercising in the presence of nature can have health benefits beyond getting your blood pumping. Studies show that exercising in natural environments can have positive effects on self-esteem and improve your mood. In fact, this is especially noticed in people with mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Just ten minutes will be enough to have an effect.
- Take your lunch break outside. Stretch your limbs, walk around and enjoy the serenity of the outdoors. Find the nearest parkette or waterside bench and bon appetite!
- Commit to an outdoor boot camp, participate in sunrise yoga or find a buddy or join a group for walking or running. These group activities make you more accountable and you will benefit from the exercise, nature and socialization.
This spring, breathe deeply and explore the beautiful benefits of nature.