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Try a Nature Prescription

By Staff | Aug 29, 2014

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

Poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, and living in an indoor manufactured environment contribute to obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, and many other illnesses where we are now just discovering the links. Many people end up taking prescription medications for these chronic conditions. It does not need to be this way.

With the assistance of The National Park Service and Shippensburg Environmental Science Student Ashley Moyer we have created a website www.NaturePrescriptions.org that focuses on the prescription of nature as a way to maintain your health. We want to provide you with the tools to help improve your health and your family’s health, by being active in nature and including fresh, local, whole foods in your diet. This site also provides information on regional parks and trails that provide great outdoor activities to escape today’s busy life. A walk down some of these beautiful trails is just what the doctor and park ranger ordered. Not only is it an enjoyable experience, but it helps improve your health, and keeps you alive and well. So get out, get active, and make your feet your friends.

Not only can being active outside in nature improve your physical health, but it can also improve your mental health. Spending time in nature can be a quiet time without distractions that can allow for mental decompression and reflection. It has been shown to elevate mood and help in the reduction of stress.

Kids need nature. Parks let kids explore and discover nature. Outdoor play is a great way for kids to increase their activity and fitness level. It can also allow them to interact with peers. The goal is to get kids active in nature at an early age so they can learn that outdoor play is fun and something they can be excited about doing. Research has shown that children with ADHD tend to be able to focus better after spending time outdoors. The National Environmental Education Foundation has realized the importance of nature in the lives of children, and has a program geared towards getting kids more involved with nature.

Parks also provide walking/hiking trails that are great ways for kids to explore. Discover the Forest is a great resource for kids when planning a hiking trip, and it includes a park finder where you can search by zip code to find a park near you. Our site shares some ideas to make trails more exciting for kids.

Parks are not only good for individual health and mental wellness, but they are also good for the cities we live in. They reduce temperatures in cities. Urban areas are warmer than the surrounding urban areas (up to 12.9 degrees C), due to a variety of factors. These include the absorption of heat by concrete and asphalt, the heat output from motor vehicles and industry, and decreased cooling from evaporation due to less soil, grass, trees, etc. Parks help provide cooler areas within a city through shade, evaporative cooling, and decreased heat absorption.

Parks reduces storm runoff. When it rains on impervious surfaces such as buildings and roads, water runs off these surfaces and into storm drains. Storm water runoff carries pollutants from roadways directly into rivers, lakes, or streams. Parks on the other hand, allow the storm water to be absorbed by the soil to be used by plants and trees or to filter below the surface and replenish ground water.

Parks reduce air pollution. Trees and other vegetation in parks can remove carbon dioxide pollution from the air. Since parks also reduce the air temperature in and around the parks, the buildings around the park will use less energy for cooling systems and therefore contribute less pollution.

Parks increase habitat for wildlife. The trees, plants and grass in a city park provide habitats for wildlife ranging from birds, to butterflies, to small mammals. They can provided a refuge for the wildlife that otherwise might not survive in a city. It is important to keep this habitat safe and intact.

Nature does such wonderful things for us; what you can do for nature?

“For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.”

  • Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Nature provides us with the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and with many other resources that go into the products we consume. Although the world seems like a huge place, it is not limitless. With an ever growing population, it is important that we do not take for granted all the wonderful things that nature provides for us.

Water- Approximately 70% of the Earth is covered in water. 97.2 percent of this water is salt water. Of the remaining freshwater, approximately 2.8 percent is unavailable and frozen in glaciers, while a remaining 0.5 percent is groundwater, and 0.3 percent is freshwater lakes and rivers. So slightly less than 1 percent of Earth’s water is available for human use. Lets all do our part to protect and conserve this precious commodity.

Energy- most of the electric in the U.S. comes from coal and natural gas, which emits carbon dioxide when burned and contributes to a warming climate. We also use a lot of energy for transportation.

Waste- by now, most of us have heard the slogan Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle as a way of limiting waste. Recycling is usually the most talked about, however Reducing is the most important step in this process. Simply put, the best way to reduce your waste is by using/buying less to begin with. Reusing and Recycling are great things to do too, but reused items will still eventually end in a landfill and recycling still uses energy and resources, so always consider Reducing first!

Visit www.natureprescriptions.org and explore the links on all of these topics and download the maps. But get off your computer and get outside.