Prescribing Parks

Increasingly, Nurse Practitioners are incorporating nature therapy into patient care plans. Research shows these plans produce positive results, with patients benefiting from exposure to sunlight, open space, and organic environments.1


  • Restores attention: Spending time outdoors can improve children’s behavior, self-control and academic performance.2
  • Lowers stress: A study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that people who strolled through nature for 30 minutes a day reported a decrease in negative thinking.3
  • Encourages fitness: Data shows children who play outside for about 37 minutes per day have a reduced risk for obesity, while playing outside for 60 minutes per day results in improvements in body mass index.45
  • Refines cognition: Environmental and behavioral research concluded that kids with access to the outdoors are more likely to enjoy enhanced memory, judgment, and reasoning.6


  • Greater vitamin absorption: Exposure to ultraviolet B light improves synthesis of vitamin D, an important element in avoiding rickets and increasing bone development.7
  • Reduced healing time: Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh learned that spinal surgery patients experienced less pain and stress if they were exposed to natural light.8 Reports from China have documented reduced inflammation in recovering patients as well.9
  • Improved sleep: Sunlight naturalizes circadian rhythms, making it easier to stay alert all day.10 Men and seniors in particular sleep better when they have access to nature, as physical activity induces end-of-day fatigue.11
  • Protecting vision: Studies show spending time outside guards children and adolescents against nearsightedness, including Computer Vision Syndrome.1213


  • Reduction of chronic diseases: When compared to urban areas, forested environments lower cortisol concentrations, pulse rates, and blood pressure, and are beneficial to nerve activity.1415
  • Boost to the immune system: Scientists have observed cellular activity associated with nature’s possible anti-cancer effects is also indicative of a general increased immune response for minor ailments, like colds, flus, and other infections, specifically when in forest and forest-like surroundings.1617
  • Cultural kinship: The Japanese concept of Shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” has demonstrated organic environs better physical and mental health.”1819 While the Norwegians have the mindset of friluftsliv, Germany claims a connectedness to nature that only Waldeinsamkeit can bring, when in solitude.2021


1Material reprinted from The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, Vol. 13 No. 1, Ms. Lois A. Wessel, “Shifting Gears: Engaging Nurse Practitioners in Prescribing Time Outdoors,” Pages 89-96, January 2017, with permission from Elsevier.
2Wessel, 90.
3Bratman, G., Hamilton, J., Hahn, K., Daily, G., Gross, J. “Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. PNAS, 2015. Accessed Feb 24, 2017.
4Wessel, 90.
5Ansari, A., Pettit, K., Gershoff, E. “Combating obesity in head start: outdoor play and change in children’s body mass index.” Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 2015. Pages 605-12. Accessed Feb 24, 2017.
6Wells, Nancy M. “At Home with Nature: Effects of ‘greenness’ on children’s cognitive functioning,” Environment and Behavior, 2000. Pages 775 – 95. Accessed Feb 24, 2017.
7Wessel, 90.
8Walch, J., Rabin, B., Day, R., Williams, J., Cho, K., Kang, J. “The effect of sunlight on postoperative analgesic medication use: a prospective study of patients undergoing spinal surgery,” Psychosomatic Medicine, 2005. Pages 156-63. Accessed Feb 24, 2017.
9Mao, G., Lan, X., Cao, Y., Chen, Z., He, Z., Lv, Y., Wang, Y., Hu, X., Wang, G., Yan, J. “Effects of short-term forest bathing on human health in a broad-leaved evergreen forest in Zhejiang Province, China,” Biomedical and Environmental Science, 2012. Pages 317-24. Accessed Feb 24, 2017.
10Wright, K. et al. “Entrainment of the human circadian clock to the natural light-dark cycle.” Current Biology, Volume 23 , Issue 16, Pages 1554 – 58. Accessed Feb 24, 2017.
11University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. “Men, people over 65 sleep better when they have access to nature,” ScienceDaily, 2015. Accessed February 24, 2017.
12Wessel, 90.
13Sherwin, J., Reacher, M.H., Keogh, R.H., Khawaja, A.P., Mackey, D.A., Foster, P.J. “The association between time spent outdoors and myopia in children and adolescents: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Ophthalmology, 2012. Pages 2141–51. Accessed Feb 24, 2017.
14Wessel, 90.
15Tsunetsugu, Y., Park, B.J., Lee, J., Kagawa, T., Miyazaki, Y. “Psychological relaxation effect of forest therapy: results of field experiments in 19 forests in Japan involving 228 participants,” Nihon Eiseigaku Zasshi, 2011. Pages 670–76. Accessed Feb 24, 2017.
16Li, Q., Morimoto, K., Kobayashi, M., Inagaki, H., Katsumata, M., Hirata, Y., Hirata, K., Sukuzi, H., Li, Y., Wakayama, Y., Kawada, T., Park, B., Ohira, T., Matsuim N., Kagawa, T., Miyazaki, Y., Krensky, A. “Visiting a forest, but not a city, increases human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins,” International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, 2008. Pages 117-27. Accessed Feb 24, 2017.
17Li, Q. “Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function,” Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, 2010. Pages 9-17. Accessed Feb 24, 2017.
18Wessel, 90.
19Tsunetsugu, Y., Park, B.J., Lee, J., Kagawa, T., Miyazaki, Y, 670-676.
20Ministry of the Environment, Oslo, “Naturopplevelse, friluftsliv og vår psykiske helse” (“The Nature Experience and Mental Health”), Ministry of the Environment Publications, 2009. Pages 1-27. Accessed Feb 24, 2017.
21Reilly, J., Hung, J., Westbury, C. “Non-Arbitrariness in Mapping Word Form to Meaning: Cross-Linguistic Formal Markers of Word Concreteness,” Cognitive Science, 2016. Accessed Feb 24, 2017.