Dr. Robert Zarr loves to write prescriptions that you don’t have to take to the pharmacy.
Instead, he sends patients outside to soak in the healing powers of nature, combining the benefits of exercise with the therapeutic effects of fresh air and green space, according to the American Heart Association News.
“Going back millions of years, we’ve evolved outdoors,” said Zarr, a pediatrician who recently relocated to Ottawa, Canada, from Washington, D.C. “Why should we exist indoors? We need to be outdoors. The health benefits of being in nature are obvious.”
The idea isn’t new. The 16th century Swiss physician Paracelsus declared that “the art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician.” In Japan, public health experts promote shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, as a key to physical and psychological health.
The premise is backed up with science. A 2018 meta-analysis in the journal Environmental Research reviewed more than 140 studies and found exposure to green space was associated with wide-ranging health benefits, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and lower rates of diabetes, stroke, asthma, heart disease and overall death.