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Health & Balance

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Do You Need a Nature Prescription?

Nature therapy may mean that better health is right outside your door.

How Much Time

Most major medical organizations recommend that children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, Brown says.

“What the ‘Children and Nature Initiative’ is trying to advocate for is that as much of this time as possible be outside,” Brown says, adding that outdoor time is good for children’s physical, mental, social, and emotional development.

“Most people understand the importance of getting kids moving,” says Angelique Marquez, RD, of the Children’s Heart Center in Las Vegas. Even before being trained as a Nature Champion, Marquez prescribed outdoor activity for patients who had heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes.

Adding Nature to Your Day

For families that don’t live near a park, there are other ways to incorporate nature into their daily lifestyle. Marquez suggests walking to school or to the store or playing on a playground.

Kids should always be supervised by a responsible adult, Brown advises, and parents should be familiar with which playgrounds are safe in their neighborhood. For playground safety tips, check the web site of the National Association for Playground Safety.

Safety is an important factor for adults, as well. Whether you’re taking an urban hike or a walk in the park, the USDA Forest Service recommends that you do the following:

  • Go with a companion (or at least let someone know where and when you’ll be going)
  • Keep your eye on the weather
  • Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions and locale
  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Especially if it’s warm outside, take along a bottle of water so you won’t become dehydrated
  • Slather on the sunscreen, and, if necessary, insect repellent.

Clearing Your Mind

Being outside not only improves physical health but offers mental clarity as well, which is one reason certified sex counselor Eric Marlowe Garrison suggests that his clients meet him outside.

“People talk more when they’re moving,” says Garrison, who practices in New York City and Richmond, Va. “The act of physical movement triggers the mind. I can accomplish more with my clients during a 45-minute walk in Central Park than in two hours in my office.”

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