This Medical Center Prescribes Nature, and Fills Prescriptions On-Site

We inrx_nature the Nature Explore family don’t need a study to tell us that nature has many positive benefits for our physical, mental and spiritual health. We feel these benefits in ourselves, and see them in the children who play in our outdoor classrooms. Yet if nature is so good for our health, why aren’t doctors prescribing time outdoors?

They are, across the country, thanks to the “Rx For Outdoor Activity” training given by The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF). Doctors who have taken this training are qualified to write prescriptions for nature and to address children’s health issues as they relate to nature and the environment.

One of these Nature Champions is Daniel Porter, MD, Medical Director of the Lone Star Family Health Center (LSFHC), in Conroe, Texas. Lone Star also has a new Nature Explore Classroom on grounds. Doctors there are writing prescriptions for patients to spend time in the outdoor classroom. These are not simply verbal recommendations, but true prescriptions that are entered into the patient’s electronic health record. This is the first Nature Explore Classroom directly on the grounds of a federally qualified health center, and a model for future replication elsewhere.

To read the full article, click here

Kids Who Play More Outdoors May be Less Likely to Have Problems with Peers

peer-problem Kids who spend more time outdoors seem to gain a boost in their peer relations, per a new report from Statistics Canada. In September, the agency released a report on outdoor time, physical activity and sedentary time and health indicators of Canadians aged 7 to 14.

Canadian guidelines suggest that kids between 5 and 17 years old get at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per day. Only 9 percent of children do. (The rule of thumb is if you’re able to carry on a conversation easily then you’re not working hard enough.)

Each additional hour spent outdoors was associated with:

  • 7 more minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity.
  • 762 more steps.
  • 13 fewer minutes of sedentary time.

Additionally, children reporting more time outdoors were less likely to have peer relationship problems compared with those who spent less time outside, Mark Tremblay of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and his team said in Health Reports.

To read the full article, click here.

Forest Bathing to Improve Health

loc_forestbathingFirst prescribed by Henry David Thoreau in 1854, eco-therapy is now scientifically proven to improve wellbeing. Forest bathing – basically just being in the presence of trees – is a type of eco-therapy that has proven to lower heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormone production, and increase the immune system and general feelings of wellbeing. This method of relaxation and health practice is gaining popularity, and not a minute too soon.

A forest bath requires a person to just immerse themselves in nature and relax, instead of trying to accomplish anything. For 8 years, Japanese researchers studied the physiological and psychological effects of this method. They found a boost in the immune system of participants, due to an increase in natural killer cells. These cells provide rapid responses to viral-infected cells and respond to tumor formation, and are associated with immune system health and cancer prevention. These positive affects after a few hours in the forest can last for up to a month. These effects can be attributed to phytoncide found in plants and trees in the forests. Trees use this essential oil to protect themselves against bacteria and insects, and humans can use it for an improved immune system.

Nature also had physiological results on participants. They had greater activity in their parasympathetic nerves, which controls the body’s ability to rest and relax. The psychological benefits from forest bathing involved reduced hostility and depressive tendencies among the participants.

Due to the findings of this study, the Japanese government implemented 48 therapy trails throughout local forests. To read the full article, click here.

Stanford Study Measures the Health Benefits of Nature Walks

bridgeA growing body of evidence supports the idea that spending time in nature has positive impacts on human physical and mental health. As a result, scientists are beginning to conduct research that addresses the more specific questions of just exactly how nature is beneficial and they are providing quantifiable results.

In a recent study by Stanford, researchers were able to pinpoint a neural response that resulted from time spent in nature. Study participants walked in either a high-traffic urban setting or in a natural area for 90 minutes. Participants that walked in natural areas showed a decrease in activity in the region of the brain associated with a key factor causing depression. This suggests that making time for nature outings might be helpful in addressing a range of mental health disorders, particularly for those living in city settings.

To read the full article click here.  

Let’s Zumba Outside for GreenSchools!

shapeimage_28Lantrip Elementary Environmental Science Magnet School, Jackson Middle School and Stephen F. Austin High School, all in close proximity of each other in Houston, Texas, are partnering with the the Friends of the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas – Latino Legacy and many others, to host a Zumbathon to support area students in creating a more healthy Houston through campus and community greening projects. The US Forest Service is helping sponsor the free Green Expo and Health Fair.

The “Let’s Zumba Outside for GreenSchools!” event will be held on Saturday, May 4, 2013, from 9 am – 1 pm at Stephen F. Austin High School, located at 1700 Dumble, Houston TX.

Primary components of the event will center upon getting children and their families outside, campus and community greening, site planning for outdoor spaces, and promoting the important connection between health and nature.

To learn more about this family friendly event visit http://www.friendsnfgt.org/friendsnfgt/zumbaflyer.html.

 

What is a “Green School”?

There are many elements of a green school, including reduction of environmental impact and costs; improvement of the health and wellness of students and staff; and provision of effective environmental and sustainability education, which incorporates science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts, civic skills, and green career pathways. Also important is strong partnerships and networks, and a focus on service learning.

Here are some links to learn more about green schools:

The Benefits of Exercising Outdoors

Article from the New York Times

By Gretchen Reynolds

While the allure of the gym — climate-controlled, convenient and predictable — is obvious, especially in winter, emerging science suggests there are benefits to exercising outdoors that can’t be replicated on a treadmill, a recumbent bicycle or a track.

You stride differently when running outdoors, for one thing. Generally, studies find, people flex their ankles more when they run outside. They also, at least occasionally, run downhill, a movement that isn’t easily done on a treadmill and that stresses muscles differently than running on flat or uphill terrain. Outdoor exercise tends, too, to be more strenuous than the indoor version. In studies comparing the exertion of running on a treadmill and the exertion of running outside, treadmill runners expended less energy, to cover the same distance as those striding across the ground outside, primarily because indoor exercisers face no wind resistance or changes in terrain, no matter how subtle.

Click here to read the full article.