Take 4,000 Steps and Call Me in the Morning

Hiking though the redwood forest along California’s Lost Coast.

The old adage of “take two aspirin and call me in the morning” may soon be replaced with a “nature prescription.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic highlighting the health benefits of spending more time outdoors, a growing faction of the U.S. medical community is prescribing time outside the same way they would traditional medication.

The idea of writing out park or nature prescriptions has taken hold, particularly among pediatricians.

Maya Moody, the president-elect of the Missouri chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), became one of about a dozen pediatricians across the state who have started offering nature prescriptions.

“When I give a prescription, it’s specific, just like an antibiotic. They use it for this many days, and I say go to this park,” she explained. Buy-in has differed with different age groups, Moody noted, with younger children and their parents being more open to the approach but teenagers expressing skepticism.

Nature prescriptions are still new, so there is little data on their effectiveness, but one 2018 analysis by researchers from Britain’s University of East Anglia did find they “may have substantial benefits”.

There has been much more research done on the general benefits of being outdoors. In more than 500 scientific studies in recent years, researchers have linked time spent in nature with decreased anxiety, reduced risk of obesity, and even reduced overall mortality.

And it may come as no surprise, but one company has developed an online platform, Park Rx America, that helps medical professionals write nature prescriptions. Using its database of thousands of parks and public lands, prescribers can filter by activity, distance from a patient’s home, and amenities such as playgrounds.

Currently, there are more than 100 park prescription programs nationwide, and I hope to see the number grow. Such programs seem like a low-cost way of providing a useful health benefit to many people.

This made me think of another potential area for low-cost, but potentially effective health care solutions.

For people who are having trouble sleeping, doctors and sleep centers can prescribe the following:

  • read Borden’s Blather every day for 30 days

Such a treatment would likely put the patients into a deep sleep. If it doesn’t work, then pull out the heavy equipment:

  • watch 30 minutes of Borden’s recorded accounting lectures each day

If this doesn’t work, either the patient is likely a lost cause or they have a future as an accountant.


Thomson Reuters Foundation News

*4,000 steps require about 30 minutes of walking

**image from NBC News

84 thoughts on “Take 4,000 Steps and Call Me in the Morning

  1. This post leaves me feeling a little nervous. When doctors start writing prescriptions to go out in nature, then I wonder if the FDA is planning to cut off access to our national parks unless you have a prescription. But I’m probably just being paranoid, after experiencing a year-and-a-half of officious rules restricting our freedoms. Personally, I prefer to take my doses of nature over-the-counter. I don’t need a doctor prescribing it to me. But if nature becomes a controlled substance, I’ll probably start packaging it up and selling it illicitly on street corners, to people who need a fix.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is interesting bc we are steadily seeing how the world is changing in such a short amount of time.. How we interact, what we deem safe, what’s become important is all changing as we know it. “Adventurous” is not a word I’d use to describe myself- though I’ve never rejected adventure, I’ve just never gone looking for it specifically but given everything taking hold of the world right now, it seems all I want to do is explore the nature outside my door as often as possible, with the people I love most. Also reading your blog doesn’t hurt either 😉😁😏


  3. The only time we were allowed out at the beginning of easing out of lockdoen, other than to shop or seek medical attention, was to get outdoor exercise. It must have gone a long way to help deal with depression and obesity. And 15 months later a lot of people are still walking or running.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. HI Tandy, our park was locked up for the duration of the 5 week level 5 lockdown so there was nowhere for people to really go to exercise other than walking the streets which is never recommended in Johannesburg.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m going to say that this would work for me. I started walking six days a week when my gym closed to Covid. This is the closest thing to a runner’s high that I’ve always heard about and never felt. I still hate to run, though.😎 When I was younger, I liked a game of basketball, racquetball, or tennis, but running there involved actual competition. I’m back at the gym wearing my mask, but I still try to walk a couple of times per week simply because I feel happier when I do. I also seem to do my best thinking on these walks. It benefits me physically but even more mentally.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I have definitely noticed an increase of walkers going past my gates during covid I have also noticed that in the beginning some of them were definitely unfit and 3 quickly became two as they lapped around my house and the one opposite but now(and) we commented…I did the other night that they were not as unfit now and some are even jogging around now which is great to see…3 laps is about 2,000 steps it’s quite a good way to build up your stamina…I do think it a good idea for doctors to suggest exercise instead of pills 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have always appreciated the healing powers of being outdoors in nature. Whether spending the weekend camping or just putting miles on the motorcycle, that time outside with people whose company I enjoy is a precious part of keeping my mental health well. I hope these are not hand-written prescriptions, as everybody knows you can never read a physician’s writing. Your posts are to enjoyable to have any impact on bringing on sleep, but those accounting lectures may well do the trick. Unless, of course, there is juggling!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. At times, I’m a selfish and terrible person. At the start of the pandemic, the Gettysburg Battlefield roads and trails filled with people. This is where I exercise and suddenly everyone else in town was there too. I felt like everyone was invading *my* space. Predictably, that only lasted a couple of months. The park is now as empty as it ever was. People are back to spending their Saturday afternoon shopping at TJ Maxx. I don’t know what it will take to get America outside. Apparently 2 months of positive habits didn’t do it. I doubt prescriptions will either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can understand your frustration; it’s like going to the gym in January. Happy to hear that you have the park back to yourself. and I wonder the same thing – what does it take to get people to make exercise a part of their daily routine…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. An interesting approach, and as the research on it was carried out by my alma mater it must be good! I would have replied sooner but I tried your suggestion and 💤💤😂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Indeed I am, BA in Eng Lit and History of Art, 1972-5. I probably wouldn’t have been much good at designing their research, though! It’s always good when a plan comes together, isn’t it 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for the compliment! It’s frightening to think that I started there nearly fifty years ago. The History of Art was what they called a ‘minor subject,’ about 40% of the coursework and final exams. It was a mid course change, after I realised how long nineteenth century novels were!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Time flies, doesn’t it!

        Some of them were very enjoyable, others less so. But there was a lot of crossover between art and literature at that time, so I made a good choice to combine them. And the art books were full of pictures and many fewer words 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Nice idea. The problem is that I’ve long since lost all of my notes from those days and the memory has faded – I’d be learning it all anew for myself! I did once post a piece about my favourite painting, so maybe I’ll dig that out: it was eight years ago so I’d be amazed if anyone is still around to remember it 😂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. This is like when we were kids. We spent every waking moment we could outside and there were a lot less issues such as anxiety and allergies and obesity. Really it is common sense. And good for all ages. I know personally how much it helps me so I spend as much time outside as I can.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. goodpoint abot how our generation spent a lot of time outside. It would be interesting if there was research to support your belief, and mine as well, that we were healthier than today’s kids as a result.

      and I could try harder to spend more time outside…

      Liked by 1 person

  10. The electronic age and fear of kidnapping, stopped kids from living a normal outdoor life. We grew up outside. Had to come in when the streetlights went on. No one knew where we were from morning until night. We were never inside. No need for doctors to tell us to go out. That’s a new and very sad thing. Covid aside, kids sit in their rooms, or basements a lot. They are driven to school, two blocks away from their houses. Outside is just something to cut through to get to another place where they can go inside.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it’s a different time for sure; as I noted in another comment, I wonder if anybody has ever studied the childhood health differences from earlier generations compared with today’s…

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I knew I was on to something when I began a regimen of morning walks a few years ago. Well, I must admit that my doctor “strongly” encouraged more exercise. Of course, walking over to the kitchen counter for another cup of coffee while reading this post does offer a limited medicinal effect.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I really appreciated this article.
    I usually walk through nature, parks, forests when i’m down or blue and after the walk i feel better, more focused and optimistic.
    Nature can be the cure, but if you have real and serious medical issues, please don’t take nature as a solution, medicine is.
    This article leaves many aspects to think on, thank you so much

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.