Looks like Canada is leaning in to utilizing the great outdoors in its healthcare practices.
On January 31, the country’s national parks management agency, Parks Canada announced it was joining PaRx, the national nature prescription program with the goal of prescribing patients annual passes to all of Canada’s national parks. That’s right.
PaRx is one of many global Parks Prescription initiatives that uses connection to nature to promote health development. The organization didn’t invent the concept of Parks Prescription, though, as it actually began as a grassroots movement in the United States and has since spread across the world. However, PaRx is tapping into what limited research there is on the subject to hopefully build on what they see as a worthwhile form of holistic wellness.
Dr. Melissa Lem, who is a family physician and PaRx director, gave a statement to Global News Canada, saying, “We have a standard recommendation, based on the latest research, that patients spend at least 2 hours a week in nature and at least 20 minutes each time.”
They claim that spending this amount of time in nature yields a number of physical and mental health benefits like:
- reducing stress
- reducing anxiety and depression
- boosting immune system and recovery
- increasing feelings of happiness
- calming racing thoughts
- promoting connection with others
- improving self-esteem
PaRx states its goal is to make “prescribing time in nature simple, fun, and effective” by working with “healthcare professionals who want to improve their patients’ health by connecting them to nature.”
According to the organization, each healthcare professional (or prescriber) who registers with PaRx will receive unique, detailed instructions for how to prescribe and log nature prescriptions for patients.
The PaRx national park annual pass, which is being called the Parks Canada Discovery Pass, is going for $57 ($72 CAD) per adult. Doctors who prescribe the passes are currently being encouraged to prioritize patients who live near national parks and patients who may have trouble affording them.
There are approximately 71 similar nature health programs across 32 states in the United States. And the states-side hub, called Park RX America, has a nice tool for you to locate the prescribed park near you.
As more Parks Prescription programs continue to pop up near and far, there’s plenty info about where and how to begin your next great nature health adventure. However, you don’t necessarily need an annual pass to start a healthy outdoors habit. There’s likely plenty of cost-free nature real estate to soak up not far from your front door.
While you’re planning, check out our Greatist Guide to the Great Outdoors for all the ways you can take advantage of nature.