It might seem obvious, but spending time outdoors is good for your health and mental well-being. Then why hasn’t it been incorporated into traditional medicine? Well it has now. Physicians across the country are increasingly prescribing nature as part of a treatment plan for a variety of both physical and mental health problems. 

National Park  Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis recognized the value of this sort of approach for public health as part of the first National Park Rx Day on April 24. The event came on the heels of National Park Week around the nation.

“Nature is good for us – it is a great antidote to a variety of ailments, including obesity, heart disease, and depression,” said Jarvis at a National Park Rx Day event in Seattle, according to a press release. “A growing number of public health officials now prescribe time in parks for the overall well-being of their patients. In fact, it is becoming a standard medical practice to tell patients to take a hike.” 

ALSO READ: 3 Ways Hiking Can Boost Your Mind and Body

The news release cited three cities where health care providers providers are incorporating outdoor physical fitness. In Washington, DC physicians help patients find parks and green space through an electronic database. In Miami-Dade County, Florida, children get prescriptions to exercise. And in Marin City, California, the new Park Rx program promotes national park trails. 

“We know that an average of 22 minutes a day of physical activity – such as brisk walking in a national park – can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes,” said US Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy. “The key is to get started because even a small first effort can make a big difference in improving the personal health of an individual and the public health of the nation.” 

ALSO READ: Why Nature is the Best Antidepressant

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