Could A "Park Prescription" Be Just What The Doctor Ordered For America's Health?

There's been no shortage of discussion about the unhealthy lifestyle for too many Americans, and perhaps a new year has inspired you to make some changes. If that's the case, a "park prescription" from your health care professional provide a little nudge ... and could prove to be a literal application of the proverbial "just what the doctor ordered."

National parks have long been recognized as places to enjoy a host of fun activities amidst some of our nation's premier natural and historical treasures. Now there's a renewed realization that spending time out of doors on a regular basis is good for our health, and the "Healthy Parks, Healthy People" program is encouraging that to happen.

The "Healthy Parks, Healthy People" (HPHP) program is an international initiative, and a HPHP global summit held in Australia in 2010 attracted 1,200 participants from 37 nations. The program is starting to gain some traction here in the U.S. and the following short video offers a summary of the advantages we can gain if we—and our medical professionals—choose to embrace the program.

One National Park Service area that already has a program well underway is Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and a brochure for that area offers a reminder of a situation many of us share: "Our lives are filled with hours parked in front of televisions or using electronic devices."

That brochure also offers one solution to bring some balance to that lifestyle: "Unplug and reconnect with nature’s power. Whether taking a vigorous hike or a gentle stroll in the park, getting back to nature can improve your physical health, as well as emotional and mental wellbeing."

When health do issues arise we usually look for help from our health care providers, but what if part of the suggested solution for many aliments was a written prescription to take a walk, bicycle, kayak, or some similar activity in a national park, or a similar area near home?

That’s exactly what a “park prescription” is. Whether taking a vigorous hike or a gentle stroll in park, getting back to nature can improve our physical health, as well as emotional and mental wellbeing.

Clearly, physical activity isn't the answer to every medical problem, but for many of us, there's little doubt we could benefit by more outdoor activity. Physicians around the country are beginning to actively promote the use of parks and similar outdoor spaces, as illustrated by a pair of articles posted on the Healthy Parks, Healthy People US website: "Take a Hike and Call Me in the Morning" and "Head Out for a Daily Dose of Green Space."

Like to learn more about this program, or even learn how you might share the idea with your own health care provider? you can download a copy of the The National Parks and Public Health: A NPS Healthy Parks, Healthy People Science Plan at this link.