PaRx Initiative in Canada: Physicians can prescribe nature time + forest bathing tips from Dr. Qing Li
A doctor ordered prescription for nature you say? Yes! Recently launched in Canada, PaRx encourages and assists licensed physicians and other qualified healthcare providers with prescribing time in nature, and provides free prescription Parks Canada Discovery Pass, allowing patients access to over 80 provincial parks.This initiative confirms and strengthens the growing evidence illustrating the health benefits of spending time in nature.
Parks Prescriptions 'PaRx' is a Canadian initiative with BC Parks Foundation founded in 2020. PaRx encourages and assists licensed physicians and other healthcare providers with prescribing time in nature and provides prescription passes to the Parks Canada Discovery Pass. The Discovery Pass allows access to over 80 stunning parks and historical locations across Canada. This the perfect reason to get off your screens and decompress by getting outside and experiencing the replenishing qualities of the great outdoors.
More provinces have since joined PaRx, showing tremendous flourishing support across Canada. This initiative confirms and strengthens the growing evidence illustrating the health benefits of spending time in nature. Walking and 'taking in' or 'being present with all of your senses' (forest bathing) in nature settings can lower blood pressure and cortisol levels, reduce perceived feelings of acute anxiety and depression, trigger the parasympathetic nervous system for relaxation, and elevate perceived feelings of restoration, vigor, and mood.
Several countries have previously offered green prescriptions for preventative medicine, including New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan.
The recognition and endorsement of nature connection from the medical community bolster support for other outdoor nature-based initiatives such as green exercise, forest bathing, children's unstructured play in nature, and outdoor programs for at-risk youth. The more healthcare providers join initiatives such as PaRx, the more similar initiatives will gain traction. This can help contribute to future research endeavors testing the effectiveness of such programs and hopefully further adoption across countries. It will also help spread awareness to others regarding the validity of these findings and encourage more discussion on human nature connection and its salubrious effects on health.
Are you inspired for a nature visit? Read these forest bathing tips from my interview with forest medicine researcher Dr. Qing Li, the foremost expert on forest medicine in Japan.
Make a plan based on your own physical abilities and avoid tiring yourself out.
If you have an entire day, stay in the forest for about 4 hours and walk about 5 kilometres. If you have just a half day, stay in the forest for about 2 hours and walk about 2.5 kilometres.
Take a rest whenever you have tired.
Drink water/tea whenever you feel thirsty.
Find a place you like, then sit for a while and read or enjoy the scenery.
If possible, bathe in a hot spring after the forest trip.
Select the forest bathing course based on your aims.
If you want to boost your immunity (natural killer activity), a three-day/two-night trip is recommended. The effect of a three-day/two-night forest bathing can last 30 days, so it is better to take a three-day/two-night forest bathing once a month.
If you just want to relax and relieve stress, a day trip to a forested park near your home would be recommended. The effect of a day trip of forest bathing can last 7 days, so it is better to take a day trip of forest bathing once a week.
Forest bathing is a preventive measure, so if you come down with an illness, see a doctor.
Dr. Qing Li recommends to use your 5 senses during your forest bathing session:
① Sense of sight: green color, yellow color, natural colors, forest and natural landscape
② Sense of smell: special good smell, fragrance from plants and trees called phytoncides
③ Sense of hearing: forest sounds, nature sounds, bird song, murmuring of river, sounds of the wind, etc
④ Sense of touch: Touching trees, put your whole body in the forest and nature atmosphere,
⑤ Sense of taste: Eating foods from forests and nature, taste the fresh air in forests and nature, drink water from forest and nature.