Prescribing time in parks and green spaces is now used as a way of treating many conditions that include high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression. Studies suggest that people get at least two hours of nature per week. Nature prescription programs offer an opportunity to connect patients with local parks and green spaces.
Two programs that I am aware of to get outside and exercise are Park Rx America and Walk With a Doc. Park Rx America is a non-profit organization whose mission is to decrease the burden of chronic disease, increase health and happiness, and foster environmental stewardship. This is done by virtue of prescribing nature during the routine delivery of health care by a diverse group of health care professionals. It was developed by Dr. Robert Zarr, MD, MPH as a tool for providers to connect their patients to the outdoors for mental and physical health issues. Walk With a Doc communities offer free, physician-led walking groups throughout the year.
Lucky for us nature is everywhere, and it does not take much effort to find it. It just takes a little motivation to unplug from our screens, dress appropriately and take the time to make it part of our daily routine.
As a personal trainer at the Rochester Athletic Club, here are ways that I find to sneak a little nature into my workday. These may also be great ideas for you to include with your workout at the RAC! You can head out of the parking lot of the RAC on foot, bicycle, or rollerblade, head East on 19th Street and hit the trail:
- If you take a right on the trail near Lourdes it is approximately 5 miles to go around Cascade Lake and get back to the RAC.
- If you take a left on the trail at Valleyhigh Drive you will soon be at the Douglas trail and can enjoy the sights and sounds of the forest.
- Right next to and behind the RAC you will find the Cascade Meadows Wetlands, which has a host of great walking paths throughout the wetlands.
- One of my favorite things to do in the summer is to take my clients outside. There is space behind the RAC to get a workout in with tires, stairs
- I also love to utilize the outdoor pool in the summer and the sand in the volleyball court, as well as the grassy area near the outdoor tennis courts to train my clients.
- The RAC also offers outdoor Aqua aerobics and lap swimming during the summer months as well as both clay and hard-court tennis courts, an outdoor basketball hoop and sand volleyball.
If you are not equipped to take your workout outdoors studies show that even exposure to nature indoors is beneficial. One of my favorite things in the middle of winter when I cannot get outside is to enjoy the plants the RAC has in the pool area. The combination of sun shining through the huge windows combined with the plants makes even the coldest winter day tolerable.
One of the many perks of working out at the Rochester Athletic Club is the safe environment the RAC has to offer. The temperature is always perfect for the workout and if a medical situation should arise the RAC is well equipped to help you. The outdoors, however, has many more uncontrolled factors to be aware of for you to stay safe while reaping the benefits of nature.
While there are many things we can do to prepare, here is a list of 10 important things to consider before heading outside:
- Always be aware of your surroundings. If listening to music keep the volume low. Also be on the lookout for wild animals/unfriendly dogs, fallen branches or debris, broken sidewalks, suspicious activity, etc.
- Carry a cell phone.
- Bring along a friend or go with a group.
- Wear appropriate shoes.
- Drink plenty of fluids before and during your activity.
- Don’t forget to protect yourself from the sun. While vitamin D is one of the benefits of getting out in nature, too much sun is also dangerous. Sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats are important tools for sun protection.
- Wear reflective clothing and use lights if outdoors in the dark.
- Avoid bug bites.
- Always wear a helmet when biking or rollerblading.
- Dress appropriately. Layers are important when outdoors in order to be prepared for changing weather conditions and sweat.
Frumkin H, Bratman GN, Breslow SJ, Cochran B, Kahn PH Jr, Lawler JJ, Levin PS, Tandon PS, Varanasi U, Wolf KL, Wood SA. Nature Contact and Human Health: A Research Agenda. Environ Health Perspect. 2017 Jul 31;125(7):075001. doi: 10.1289/EHP1663. PMID: 28796634; PMCID: PMC5744722.
White MP, Alcock I, Grellier J, Wheeler BW, Hartig T, Warber SL, Bone A, Depledge MH, Fleming LE. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep. 2019 Jun 13;9(1):7730. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3. PMID: 31197192; PMCID: PMC6565732.
Kasi is originally from Taylors Falls, Minnesota and moved to Rochester in 2005. In college she was a Division 2 All-Conference tennis player. Away from work, Kasi enjoys spending time outdoors with her two boys and family.
Contact Kasi Boucher-Zawaira at (507) 287-9335 ext. 363.
Sign up for our newsletter