Nature prescribing in Canada: a trainee led discussion on implementation and educational opportunities

Elsevier, The Journal of Climate Change and Health, Volume 4, 2021,100040
Anna Cooper Reed, Victoria Haldane, Jacqueline Mincer, Emma McDermott, Brooklyn Rawlyk

The health benefits of spending time in nature are multiple and ever more important in light of increasing urbanization. In highly urban settings, greater exposure to nature, such as forests, parks and beaches, is associated with improved health and wellbeing [1,2]. Importantly, even 20–30 min spent in nature has been found to promote a decrease in cortisol levels [3]. For example, increased greenspaces in urban neighborhoods are associated with better self-reported health [2,4], as well as lower rates of mental distress, cardiovascular disease, and asthma hospitalizations among adults [2]. Following a five-year cohort study in Tokyo, Japan, the authors found that living in areas with walkable green spaces positively influenced the life expectancy of urban dwelling older adults [5]. Even among children there is evidence to demonstrate that time spent in nature can be of benefit. For example, research shows that children with ADHD demonstrated better concentration scores after a twenty minute walk in a park as opposed to a twenty minute walk in an urban neighbourhood or downtown [6]. In the United Kingdom, a cohort study of 4758 children living in urban areas of England found that those living in greener urban neighborhoods tended to have better spatial working memory, which is generally strongly connected to academic achievement [7]. In fact, neighbourhood socio-economic status did not impact this relationship [7]. Furthermore, COVID-19 has emphasized the importance of access to nature and the outdoors for improved health and well-being. A recent study conducted during the pandemic found that closer proximity to land-cover greenness was significant in predicting higher levels of mental wellbeing [8].