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A natural remedy for urbanite ills

  • WRITER: NOKO

The Karolinska Institutet gym in Stockholm, designed by Biofit. Biofit

Nature Deficit Disorder is an increasing health problem as urbanites become overworked and overwrought as well as absorbed in social media.

The dissociation from natural surroundings causes emotional and physical symptoms. The prescription though is not a pill but to step into sneakers and head for the outdoors.

"Prescribing Nature" is one of this year's eight wellness trends, according to a report recently released by Global Wellness Summit.

A walk in the park, for example, is a simple remedy initiated by Dr Robert Zarr, whose "DC Parks Rx" programme in Washington D.C. has expanded across the US.

A non-profit organisation, Park Rx America is on a mission to improve health, decrease the burden of chronic disease and foster environmental stewardship by promoting prescribing nature in healthcare.

Based at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, Dr Qing Li has proven health benefits of forest bathing, which led to 62 designated forest bathing therapy centres in Japan. Forest bathing has also been included in wellness programmes at travel destinations such as Le Massif ski resort in the French Alps and Oberoi Sukhvilas in India.

Scottish physicians in Shetland are also on board, by giving patients "Nature Prescriptions" aimed at improving health and increasing happiness while reducing the disconnection with nature throughout society.

National Health Service Shetland partners with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland, whose leaflet listing monthly activities is handed out to patients at each doctor's discretion. February, for instance, is a great time to plant bulbs, beachcomb for shells and watch the courtship of corbies.

Being outdoors can improve positive physical and mental well-being, which has been proven in medical research.

A study by the European Society of Cardiology found that a brisk walk outdoors daily for 25 minutes could add at least three years to your life. Results from other studies have indicated decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and certain cancers.

Walks in nature is a remedy for the mind too, by lowering stress and boosting cognition, creativity and short-term memory.

Besides the doctor's office, the "back to nature" approach is seen across the wellness world.

Fitness studios, such as Biofit, offer "green exercise" through workout programmes amid nature.

In addition, biophilic nature gyms are designed to optimise the training environment, with air-purifying plants, forest aromatherapy, circadian lighting and as much as greenery as possible.

For instance, the UK-based Biofit designed the indoor gym at Karolinska Institutet medical research university in Stockholm to help students and staff stay active and beat stress.

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