Spending time outdoors can be good for your health, offering everything from improved cognitive performance to decreased stress levels, according to Will Shafroth, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation, and Dr. Roy Beveridge, Humana’s Chief Medical Officer.
Next Avenue recently published a conversation between the two as they discussed the physical and mental benefits of visiting national parks and enjoying their natural beauty.
“Healthy recreation like walking, biking or playing is associated with physical, mental and spiritual health, as well as social well-being,” Dr. Beveridge said. “There is also evidence to suggest that exposure to natural environments could have a variety of positive health benefits.
“Natural environments affect human health and well-being both directly and indirectly, according to the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Environmental Science,” he wrote. “Urban green and outdoor areas provide opportunities for stress recovery and physical activity, in addition to offering spaces for social interactions, which are vital for mental health.
“Chronic stress, physical inactivity and lack of social cohesion are three major risk factors in people with poor health, and therefore exposure to abundant greenery and outdoor environments is an important asset for health promotion.”
The two noted that Humana and the National Park Foundation partnered with Florida International University and MetCare medical practices to introduce a Park Rx program that gave physicians and other care providers the ability to “prescribe” park activity to their patients. Analyzing the results showed that the program fostered better health and well-being by inspiring people to head outdoors.
“We need to make it easy for physicians to treat their patients, and not only with the necessary pharmaceuticals,” Dr Beveridge said. “We need to prescribe resources that engage patients in healthy activities that can lead to better lifestyle decisions and ultimately healthy behavior change. Physical activity is vital to achieving better health, and it’s up to us to make it easy for physicians to make those recommendations to their patients.”
Read the full conversation here.