Ask Dr. Dylan: What are Park Prescriptions?

Ask Dr. Dylan: Parks rather than prescriptions

Dr. Dylan talks about the benefits of being in the fresh air when walking, exercising and even sitting. Some doctors are writing prescriptions to visit a park for these benefits.

The National Parks Service’s Park Rx program- which encourages healthcare providers to write prescription for parks over pills- is gaining moment. Dr. Dylan Wyatt, an emergency medicine physician for St. Luke’s, weighs in on the science of the benefits of the outdoors.

It always feels good to get outside- but is there research that backs up the health benefits of being outdoors?

Dr. Dylan: Absolutely. Being outdoors, especially when surrounded by nature, has many health benefits that are gained independently of physical activity. Most obviously are the mental benefits: improved mood, memory, and learning as well as decreasing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and aggression.

Would you say there is a difference between walking indoors on a treadmill and walking outside?

Dr. Dylan: The physical benefits we get from exercise are gained independently from the benefits of going outside. If you have the choice, its best to choose outdoor exercise.

Is walking an adequate exercise or is running better?

Dr. Dylan: Walking is absolutely an adequate exercise! It’s best to track the intensity of whatever workout you are doing to your heart rate. It’s best for general exercise to stay in the bottom 2 levels of intensity called Zone 1 and 2. These are easily achievable with vigorous walking. An easy way to make sure you’re not overdoing it is to initially make sure you can have a conversation while you are walking. If you’re getting so short of breath you can’t speak, slow down your pace.

We hear the National Park Service actually has a program that encourages health providers to write prescriptions? Tell me about this movement.

Dr. Dylan: It’s taking cues from countries such as the UK who encourage park prescriptions, the idea is for someone who has a condition that would benefit from frequent time outdoors to get prescribed exactly that from their healthcare team.

The Parks Department also has planned programs for parks prescriptions with rangers for those new to the outdoors.

While limited in scope at this point, the movement is growing rapidly.

In what scenarios would a park prescription help?

Dr. Dylan: If I can be honest, we could probably all benefit from a parks prescription!

Even without the prescription, we can all make getting outside a priority this spring and summer as the weather gets nicer.

I’m planning on hosting nature walks this summer, watch the Lift and WDIO social media pages for more info!