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The doctors who prescribe a national parks pass

For the last couple of years we have questioned every throat tickle, every errant yawn. Is it COVID? But despite the spotlight on health, even those who haven’t had COVID have reported an increase in stress thanks to isolation, losing work, home schooling…


But now Canadians who head to their local doctor might be sent home not with pills but a prescription for a national parks pass.



“There’s almost no medical condition that nature doesn’t make better,” Dr Melissa Lem, a family physician and director of the PaRx initiative, which partnered with Parks Canada to help distribute the initial batch of 100 passes. 


“Visiting a park once is great,” she told the Washington Post


“But it doesn’t in a very meaningful way reduce the barrier to nature access.”


Lem’s program recommends two hours of nature time per week, in at least 20 minute intervals, studies showing that time in nature can lower stress hormones and heart rate variability and increase self esteem in children. 


In fact doctors Liana Hwang and Andrea Hull wrote of study that showed the wide-ranging number of health benefits as a result of increased time in nature included “improved blood pressure, lipid profiles, and cancer-related outcomes, as well as a reduced risk of asthma, type 2 diabetes, stroke and all-cause mortality”. 


“Research indicates that children who have mild to moderate attention deficits can experience memory and attention benefits from nature exposure that rival common pharmaceutical treatments,” they wrote in Alberta Doctors


“Just two hours a week spent in nature in at least 20-minute intervals can improve cardiovascular health, cognition and birth outcomes.”


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Published: 8 February 2022

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