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B.C. doctors can now prescribe national park passes to patients

Friday, February 4th 2022, 3:15 pm - A little bit of nature can go a long way towards improving overall health.

A new collaboration between a national nature prescription program called PaRx and Parks Canada has enabled B.C. doctors to prescribe national park passes to patients.

Speaking with Global News, PaRx director and family physician Dr. Melissa Lem said the organization generally recommends patients spend at least two hours a week in nature. That can be broken up over several visits, so long as they are a minimum duration of 20 minutes.

Dr. Lem told Global that "anyone with a health condition" qualifies for a nature prescription. She said the program will be nationwide by the end of 2022, with 1,000 qualified prescribers already signed up.

BIG HEALTH BENEFITS TO GETTING OUTDOORS

There is a mounting body of evidence suggesting that time spent in nature is good for mental and physical well-being.

There are a few reasons why. Vitamin D from sunlight boosts serotonin, resulting in a better mood. Research shows vitamin D exposure can lower blood pressure and promote a better night's rest. Experts recommend wearing sunscreen year-round when hiking, as there can be too much of a good thing.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b6/YohoNP.EmeraldLake.jpg/1280px-YohoNP.EmeraldLake.jpg Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park. (Wikipedia - CC BY 2.5)

Even on a cloudy day, going for a hike in a wooded area has calming effects, provided you are dressed for the conditions and equipped with the proper gear.

"Many of us have heard that nature is good for us, but what many people don't know is there is an increase in research that tells us it actually changes things like our biochemistry and our brain chemistry in a positive way," psychologist Joti Samra told The Weather Network in 2019.

"Our blood pressure is reduced, our heart rate slows down, and we are more present, which all offers positive impacts on our life."

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