Research shows time spent outdoors provides multiple health benefits.

One West Michigan doctor is leading the way to get patients outdoors by prescribing visits to local parks.

The National Institutes of Health has a long list of the health benefits of being outdoors. The list includes:

  • lower blood pressure
  • improved birth outcomes
  • reduced obesity
  • better eyesight
  • improved immune function
  • reduced ADHD symptoms
  • reduced anxiety
  • better sleep

Dr. Beth Peter MD in Holland is getting West Michigan patients outdoors through Park Rx America.

Ottawa County Parks shares a statement from Dr. Peter:

We recognize that prevention is less expensive than treatment later with medicines and surgeries. Doctors will still use medicine and surgeries, but we are being intentional about thinking of the whole person. Our brains are developed for sunshine and fresh air.

Park Rx America works with healthcare professionals to help them connect patients to the outdoors. They are currently working with about 200 registered healthcare professionals in 34 states.

Park Rx America provides a database of parks to help doctors and healthcare professionals prescribe a park that is the right fit for a patient. Once the right park is found, a prescription can be written for the patient.

Patients get text reminders to visit their prescribed park, check-in when they arrive, then answer questions about how they are feeling after their time outside.

Over 80 parks in Holland are part of the project including Ottawa County Parks, the City of Holland, Holland Charter Township, Park Township, Laketown Township and the Outdoor Discovery Center.

A prescription to get outdoors might be just the motivation some people need to logout of Netflix and get fresh air, sunshine and exercise. It's a good idea to involve the outdoors as part of a wellness plan, but let's not forget that you don't need a prescription to do it.