Doctors are increasingly prescribing time in nature to promote mental and physical health – Duluth News Tribune

Rochester, Minnesota – Combining the Greek prefix bíos (“life”) with the suffix -philía (“friendship and affinity”), German physiologist Erich Fromm first coined the term “biophilia” in 1973: “passionate love of life and everything it’s alive. “

The term is more commonly used to mean “the innate human instinct for connection with nature.”

“There’s a whole area of ​​research called biophilia,” said Brent Bauer, a doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. “This means that we are connected to nature, and these studies have indeed shown that weather in nature can improve anxiety, blood pressure and concentration in children who have attention problems.”

There is a growing tendency for doctors to prescribe time in nature or “park prescriptions” to their patients to improve their mental and physical health.

“I’m a big believer,” Bauer said. “I prescribe the nature to my patients quite often.”

ParkRx is a program launched in 2013 when the Golden Gate Institute, the National Recreation and Parks Association and the National Parks Office met with a group of health care practitioners to discuss the latest findings that natural recipes improve mental and physical health.

This group ultimately created resources to support the emerging movement of park prescribers. Since its inception, the number of park prescribing programs has increased across the country.

ParkRx conducted a 2020 census of 37 of these programs nationwide and found that 24% of park prescriptions are issued for a specific health purpose, while the remaining 78% are used to promote general well-being. Specific health goals are most often the management of anxiety and depression or lower levels of stress.

According to Bauer, written prescriptions impose responsibility and more effectively encourage patients to go outside than an oral recommendation from their doctor.

View of the small island located in Quarry Hill Nature Center and the trail connecting it to the main natural area on Wednesday, June 15, 2022.

Tucker Alan Covey / Post Bulletin

“It actually takes him to another level,” Bauer said. “I’ve seen a lot of people come back and say, ‘That made me go out again.’

To test whether real green space has mental and physical health benefits, or rather whether exercise alone is beneficial, researchers have conducted studies to see if someone walking in an urban environment sees the same health improvements as someone who go hiking. through nature.

The 2015 study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that participants who walked in nature saw lower levels of rumination or negative thoughts about themselves and had reduced brain activity in the field. of the brain associated with mental illness from those who have walked in an urban environment.

Researchers believe that this suggests that access to nature is “vital to mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.”

According to Bauer, there is another study conducted on the scope of children’s attention. There were three groups, each taking a 90-minute walk: one group through nature, another through semi-urban areas, and the last through the city center.

“It turned out that in the urban area with the center, the children’s attention is much less. When they entered nature, their attention improved. ” said Bauer. “Nature always wins.”

For people who live in urban areas and may not have easy access to hiking trails or parks, there are a few things people can do to simulate being in nature that bring similar benefits.

According to Bauer, playing videos or audio recordings of sounds from nature can bring similar benefits from being outside.

“We did a study in Mayo a long time ago with sounds of nature after surgery, so we had people who would be in the hospital (for) three or four days. Some of them simply had a period of quiet relaxation. “Some listened to sounds from nature,” Bauer said. “Then we looked at who did better in terms of pain and anxiety management, and those who actually heard the recorded sounds of nature live actually did statistically significantly better than those who just had the same period. from time to time, they were just quiet.

Although Bauer said that it does not bring the full benefits of being outside, it is a way to have some health improvements if it is not possible to go out.

Other ways to simulate living in nature is to have natural elements in your workspace, such as a picture of a waterfall or a wooden desk.

“You will have a little more productivity. You will have some better results for mental health, “Bauer said. “I think there are many ways to get this benefit from nature.”

The reason why going out in nature is so effective in achieving good physical and mental health results in the United States is that many of the health problems observed in the population are related to lifestyle and lack of exercise or time. openly.

According to Bauer, part of the overall health promotion comes from a better diet, more exercise and higher quality sleep. Bauer said he believes people should add enough time outdoors as part of their overall wellness routines.

“(Researchers) have realized that if you can get about 120 minutes a week in nature, this seems to be the sweetest place,” Bauer said. “Obviously, more may be better, but if you say, ‘What are you going to shoot for?’ I try to get my patients out for at least two hours a week.”

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