To encourage individuals in our communities to spend more time in nature, Marathon Family Health Team (MFHT) has launched an exciting new initiative called the Park Prescription (ParkRx) Program. This program allows healthcare providers at MFHT to prescribe time in nature, and provide eligible patients with access to a free seasonal pass to Pukaskwa National Park.
What are the benefits of spending time in nature?
Some of the ‘side effects’ of time spent in nature include: increased physical activity levels and social interactions (because we tend to move more and be around other people when we are outdoors); better mood and energy levels; reduced stress and anxiety; improved heart health; and living longer. Some studies also show that people who spend more time in nature are also more likely to take care of the environment, so it can be good for the planet, too!
How much time in nature is recommended?
For optimal physical and mental health benefits, it is recommended to get at least 2 hours a week of ‘nature time’. Whenever possible, try to spend 20 minutes or more at a time in nature because this time period seems to have the best effect on lowering stress and anxiety levels.
What counts as time spent in nature?
Although one component of the ParkRx Program includes providing patients with free access to Pukaskwa National Park, there are many other ways to spend time in nature. So, if going to Pukaskwa is not something that is realistic for you, the good news is that you can choose any outdoor activity (e.g. sitting on a park bench, listening to the waves on Lake Superior, or walking local trails) to get the health-boosting benefits of nature. In fact, the health benefits start to add up whenever people feel like they’ve had meaningful contact with nature. This means that it doesn’t seem to matter how you get your ‘nature time’ – what’s most important is that you do it regularly in a way that is enjoyable to you.
Who is eligible for a free seasonal pass to Pukaskwa National Park?
All patients who are enrolled at the MFHT who are 18 and older are eligible. The age criteria exists because children and youth who are 17 and younger already have free access to the park. In addition to being 18 and older, we ask that patients who accept the pass show commitment to utilizing it and that they be willing to participate in a short survey in the Fall to let us know about their experience with the pass.
How can I get a ParkRx?
Next time you are speaking with your healthcare provider, ask them about getting a ParkRx and/or a FREE seasonal pass to Pukaskwa National Park (limited passes available). Your healthcare provider can help you set a goal to increase your nature time and provide you with resources to encourage you to explore different ways to get outdoors.
This initiative was inspired by PaRx: A Prescription for Nature. For more information, please visit: https://www.parkprescriptions.ca/.