Healthy-by-Nature is launching this summer with Outside-and-Unplugged walks!


A BC Parks Foundation Initiative


With people increasingly glued to phones and computers, a walk in the park might be exactly what the doctor ordered, and on 21 July they’ll be doing more than just ordering it: they are going out there and leading it. Doctors want to send a clear message about how important it is to get outside, and the best way to do that is to go out and share the experience, so 100 doctors and health care providers will be leading Outside & Unplugged walks in 100 parks across the province on 21 July.

The Healthy by Nature movement comes as evidence mounts about health problems that may be associated with our increasingly sedentary, electronics-focused lifestyles. Canadian children are now spending 7.5 hours per day in front of a screen. Currently, only 7% of kids are meeting daily physical activity requirements. There has been a 300% increase in child-level obesity since the 1980s, and intimacy and empathy scores in 12-year-olds has declined since the 1990s. One in 20 Canadian children have been diagnosed with ADHD. In addition to the personal and social costs, the economic cost is staggering in terms of costs to the health care system alone.

In June, the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health (CCMOH) released a statement saying:
“Access to active play in nature and outdoors—with its risks—is essential for healthy child development. We recommend increasing children’s opportunities for self-directed play outdoors in all settings—at home, at school, in child care, the community and nature.”

The statement reflects research showing that time spent in nature has significant health benefits. Research has shown that time in nature results in higher standardized test scores, higher graduation rates, and reduced ADHD symptoms. Nature play results in superior motor skills, balance, and coordination, along with lower rates of anxiety and depression.

The importance of spending time outside and the associated health benefits are recognized internationally. In the United States, parks prescriptions are now part of the health care system, and in Japan, forest bathing is just as legitimate a medical activity as physiotherapy. There is also a movement in education for kids to spend time learning outside. 

BC has one of the largest and most beautiful parks systems in the world, as well as a real outdoor culture, so you don’t have to go far to experience the healing power of nature.

The Outside & Unplugged walks will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, 21 July at 100 BC Parks across the province.

Register to lead a walk or find out more today at www.healthybynature.ca.

Or contact Jennie McCaffrey, program coordinator, Healthy by Nature Initiative, BC Parks Foundation, at Jennifer.mccaffrey@bcparksfoundation.ca or 778 220-8101.
—Jennie McCaffrey, MA
Program Coordinator, BC Parks Foundation

The British Columbia Parks Foundation is an independent charity enhancing BC’s world class parks system.  
Healthy by Nature is an initiative promoting the health and stewardship benefits of getting people outside and unplugged.  
The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment works to better human health by protecting the planet.

Additional reading

Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card 2012
Kuo FE, Faber Taylor A. A potential natural treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Evidence from a national study. Am J Public Health 2004;94:1580-1586.
Faber Taylor A, Kuo FEM. Coping with add. Appl Psych Health Wellbeing 2011;3:281-303.
Faber Taylor A, Kuo FE. Children with attention deficits concentrate better after walk in the park. J Atten Disord 2009;12:402-409.
Matsuoka R. Student performance and high school landscapes: Examining the links. Landscape Urban Plan 2010;97:273-282.
Fjortoft, I. Landscape as playscape: The effects of natural environments on children’s play and motor development. Children Youth Environ 2004;14:21-44.
Palmberg IE, Kuru J. Outdoor activities as a basis for environmental responsibility. J Environ Educ 2000;31:32-36.
Thompson CW, Aspinall P, Montarzino A, et al. The childhood factor. Environ Behav 2008;40:111-143.
Wells NM, Lekies KS. Nature and the life course: Pathways from childhood nature experiences to adult environmentalism. Children Youth Environ 2006;16:1-24.
Wells NM, Evans GW. Nearby nature. Environ Behav 2003;35:311-330.
Maas JM, Verheij RA, de Vries S, et al. Morbidity is related to a green living environment. J Epidemiol Community Health 2009;63:967-973.
Huttenmoser M. Children and their living surroundings: Empirical investigations into the significance of living surroundings for the everyday life and development of children. Children’s Environ 1995;12:1-17.
Dyment JE. Gaining ground. Toronto, Ontario: Evergreen. 2005.
Statistics Canada. Overweight and obesity in children and adolescents: Results from the 2009 to 2011 Canadian Health Measures Survey
Cleland V, Crawford D, Baur LA, et al. A prospective examination of children’s time spent outdoors, objectively measured physical activity and overweight. Int J Obes 2008;32:1685-1693.
Potwarka LR, Kaczynski AT, Flack AL. Places to play: Association of park space and facilities with healthy weight status among children. J Community Health 2008;33:344-350.


This posting has not been peer reviewed by the BCMJ Editorial Board. Health by Nature and the Outside and Unplugged walks have no affiliation to Doctors of BC or the Walk With Your Doc series.


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