Prescription for Improved Health: Nature Rx

Prescription for improved health- go outside!

Guest Post: By Amy Britton, MSN, APRN, FNP-C

Americans increasingly spend more time indoors, over 90% according to one survey. Yet most of us intuitively know that spending time in nature makes us feel good. Maybe that’s why we putter around making our yards and patios inviting and why we seek to spend our vacations in areas known for their natural beauty, whether they be mountains, beaches, or forests.

Benefits

Now researchers are backing that notion up with hard data and can even quantify the “dose” needed to benefit our health. A large (n> 19000) study conducted in England published June 2019 indicated that accumulating at least 120 minutes per week of recreational contact in nature (not including time in their own gardens) resulted in a higher likelihood of reporting good health or high well-being, compared to those who had no nature contact within the previous week. The results held across various age groups and socioeconomic status levels. Also, it didn’t matter how the time was divvied up; visits could be in a large chunk or several shorter intervals.

While this study is limited in that the outcome measures were self-reported, other smaller studies provide evidence that contact with natural settings can have tangible benefits such as reduced salivary cortisol (stress hormone) levels and increased heart rate variability. Heart rate variability is an indicator of physiologic stress, with decreased heart rate variability recognized as a risk factor for heart disease.

More time spent outdoors has even also been correlated with a reduced risk of myopia (nearsightedness) in children, even in those whose parents are myopic.

Game Plan

Some ways to increase your the great outdoors include:

  • enjoying your morning beverage out on your patio,
  • taking your usual treadmill run or walk out on a park trail,
  • enjoying lunch at a café with outdoor seating, and
  • walking to your destination instead of using a vehicle whenever possible.

Taking your exercise outside is an easy way to incorporate nature into your day.

If you need help deciding what type of exercise plan to begin order my book, Second Chance at Health: Learn to Love Active Living and Clean Eating. This book is easy read guide and will help you discover the best plan for you to regain your health.

Sources:

KLEPEIS et al., “The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): A Resource for Assessing Exposure to Environmental Pollutants.” https://www.nature.com/articles/7500165

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44097-3
White WP, Alcock I, Grellier J, et al. (2019, June) Scientific Reports vol 9 “Spending at Least 120 Minutes a Week in Nature Is Associated with Good Health and Wellbeing.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5814008/ Razani, N., Morshed, S., Kohn, M. A., Wells, N. M., Thompson, D., Alqassari, M., … Rutherford, G. W. (2018). Effect of park prescriptions with and without group visits to parks on stress reduction in low-income parents: SHINE randomized trial. PloS one, 13(2), e0192921. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0192921

French AN, Ashby RS, Morgan IG, Rose KA. 2013. Time outdoors and the prevention of myopia. Exp Eye Res 114:58–68, PMID: 23644222, 10.1016/j.exer.2013.04.018.

Gladwell, V. F., Kuoppa, P., Tarvainen, M. P., & Rogerson, M. (2016). A Lunchtime Walk in Nature Enhances Restoration of Autonomic Control during Night-Time Sleep: Results from a Preliminary Study. International journal of environmental research and public health, 13(3), 280. doi:10.3390/ijerph13030280

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