When it comes to improving the health of children, can prescribing a nature walk be as good as a pill? A growing number of American physicians are betting on it, especially in light of the dire state of children’s mental health.
“I prescribe nature to patients because it is the easiest way for me to get people outside,” declares Robert Zarr, a Washington, D.C. pediatrician. Zarr and other “Nature Champions” prescribe free-form outdoor exercise to their patients. A study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health finds that, though more research is needed, “Nature prescription programs offer an opportunity to connect patients with local parks and green spaces, and to capitalize on health benefits that could result.”
I listed the sorry state of U.S. inactivity in a previous post. And there’s more I learned at the national Walking Summit: most American adults spend 90% of their time indoors, 40% of them get no leisure-time physical activity, and their kids park in front of screens 7.5 hours a day. This has contributed to a doubling of the type 2 diabetes rate in the past fifteen years and the fact that one in three Americans—whether adult or child—weighs too much. Continue reading →
I was walking with my friend when she told me her dog, Rita, was having a terrible time with allergies. Nothing—from pricey prescription dog food to medicated soap—made any difference. As she was talking, I thought of a Green Living Meetup I had just attended, the topic: “Ways of Reducing Chemicals in Your Home”. Something I learned there just might help.
I had never been to a Meetup before. When I arrived a little early on that rainy Saturday afternoon, the room in the public library was already half full of a diverse assortment of adults, plus a few babies. Our smiling hosts, Sara and Todd, sat on a table up front next to an array of boxes, bottles and bags.
Sara spoke first, explaining how the human body fights off infection and rids itself of harmful chemicals. Toxins are carried off in secretions such as sweat and mucus, or filtered by the kidneys, liver and other organs. Allergies and chemical sensitivity happen, she claimed, when those mechanisms are overwhelmed. The wafts from a fresh coat of paint or new printer could be the last straw to break the back of the body’s natural defenses.
Promising he’d have good news later, Todd launched into a litany of scary environmental data. A long-range study by the EPA detected 900 chemicals in the air of the average government office building. Indoor air can be ten times more polluted than the air outdoors. Houses, especially new ones, can harbor a host of noxious compounds. Throat-cancer-causing formaldehyde, for instance, may hide in your shampoo, your tissues, your carpet, and the no-iron clothes you wear. Continue reading →