Nature walk prescriptions issued by doctors in Scotland

Doctors in Shetland, Scotland, can now prescribe nature to their patients. It is the first program of its kind in the United Kingdom.

Since October 5 of this year doctors in Shetland, Scotland, can legally prescribe nature to their patients. There are numerous benefits of nature therapy.

In fact, Japanese people have done it for decades with shinrin-yoku or forest bathing. It is the practice of spending time in the forest, and it can improve your health, reduce stress and anxiety, as well as improve your productivity and overall wellbeing. Shinrin-yoku offers a way to reconnect with nature by walking in the woods or spending time in the local park.

The program in Shetland, Scotland, seeks to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, stress and improve overall physical and mental wellbeing of the patients. Studies have shown that something as easily accessible as walking can make a noticeable difference in your brain health, it might help to improve brain performance and even improve memory. In particular, walking might be beneficial for the elderly to reduce the brain damage caused by various forms of dementia.

Scotland is full of astounding trails, such as this one by Loch Leven

With each ‘nature prescription’ patients will be able to receive an information leaflet with recommended things to do out in the nature. For example, in November people are encouraged to “Borrow a dog and play some games.”; in December “Look back on your year and recognise how far you have come.” and January offers to “Get out ‘whatever the weather’ and feel the exhilaration of wind and rain on your face.”

Dr Chloe Evans, a GP who piloted the programme in Shetland, told The Guardian:

“There are millions of different ways of doing medicine but we very much try to involve people in their own health, and people really like being empowered. People are always thinking at some level about their diet or exercise or stopping smoking but finding out what works for them is the key.”

A similar initiative, the NHS Forest is a project coordinated by the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, and aims to improve the health and wellbeing of staff, patients and communities through increasing access to green space on or near to NHS land.

Hopefully with positive results the program will exceed beyond the 10 General Practitioner surgeries on the Shetland Islands in Scotland who are the only ones at the moment authorised by the archipelago’s health board, NHS Shetland, to prescribe time in the nature to their patients. Spending time in nature will not only make one feel better, but it might even help patients to reconnect with themselves and landscape around them, as well as its changes. Something worth noticing as the world faces climate change